Commentary By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
WASHINGTON - The hot seat just got hotter for the only black Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. His ex-girlfriend, Lillian McEwen claims that Thomas had an insatiable lust for pornography, had kinky tastes when it came to sex and engaged in lots of it while they were involved. McEwen, a former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel, has taken much flack for publicly blabbing in her graphic kiss and tell memoir D.C. Unmasked & Undressedabout Thomas's romantic trysts with her and other women, a whole 19 years after the fact.
Those trysts happened when Thomas was a single man on the prowl. The criticism of McEwen for dredging up old dirt and gossip to peddle a book might be well deserved, except that her tell-all in a sense sheds further light and doubt on Thomas's sworn testimony during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings in 1991 regarding Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. Hill insisted under oath that Thomas had harassed and that he had a penchant for pornography.
In his testimony, Thomas flatly said that if he had engaged in that kind of behavior other employees would have spoken out in defense of Hill. He was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at the time Hill claimed he harassed her. The fact is that several women did confirm Hill's charge at the time that Thomas was a serial sexual harasser. But the Judiciary Committee ignored their affidavits and testimony, including that of one who did testify. Still, Thomas penchant for kinky sex, pornography and gutter talk as reprehensible as it might be is not a crime, or maybe should not even be the subject of moral debate.
But Thomas's possible perjury before a congressional body is a crime. And that could be grounds for legal proceedings against him. But that's hardly likely since Thomas courtesy of his rich, powerful and corporate-connected protectors seems to have a cast iron shield encasing him. How else to explain the relatively mute public cry of outrage against Thomas for getting caught answering "none" in response to a required financial disclosure statement about outside income from his wife Virginia. Mrs. Thomas got nearly $700,000 as a consultant for the Heritage Foundation from 2003 to 2007. How else to explain the tepid criticism he got for having his bills footed by the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers to attend one of their right-wing confabs, and then refusing to recuse himself from court deliberations in a slew of cases involving corporate political funding and corporate abuses.
Then there was the embarrassing and laughable call that Virginia ("Ginny") made to Hill last year demanding the she apologize for allegedly slandering Thomas. Hill, in a terse statement, stood by her testimony, and in light of Thomas's unsavory record she was at best being charitable. Virginia subsequently back-pedaled from the ludicrous apology demand after being the butt of every late night comedian's taunts.
Thomas at least publicly has seemed unfazed by it all. He pompously and self-righteously struck back in a defiant speech in February to the hard right Federalist Society, in which lambasted anyone who dared criticize him for his blatant transgressions as an enemy of the Supreme Court, democratic institutions, and the country as a whole. He stretched his pomposity to the delusion of grandeur that he was the one justice that kept the barbarians at the gate from destroying America's freedoms and liberties.
Thomas is no dummy though. He picked his audience well in which to mount his self-defense. And in the process he showed that he could actually put together a string of coherent sentences which hasn't been the case on the High Court. Thomas is on a record breaking pace, if he hasn't already broken the record, for being the judge who has gone the longest without uttering a peep during testimony and statements by attorneys presenting oral arguments to the court. At last count silent Thomas was up to five years without a peep.
McEwen may not have had the noblest motives in waiting nearly two decades to poke fun at Thomas, since the mere mention of his name and juicy titillating sex would guarantee a cash register or two to ring. Yet she did perform at least one public service with her book. And that's to add literally one more chapter in the ongoing exposure of a man who by all accounts lied, cheated, philandered, his way onto the court, and whose opinions and decisions have been the paragon of judicial and legal pig-headedness, incompetence and stone-age retrogression.
Thomas can make all the victim-hood speeches he likes to his ultra-right cheer leading cronies, handlers and protectors and that won't change. Thanks Lillian for making the much deserved hot seat Thomas is perched on even hotter.