By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 10:19 AM
It is one of Washington's enduring mysteries.
Nearly two decades after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his fractious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it remains unclear who was lying.
Hill has maintained that she told the truth. Thomas, meanwhile, has steadfastly denied her accusations.
Now, Virginia Thomas, the justice's wife, has rekindled the controversy by leaving a voice mail message at Hill's Brandeis University office seeking an apology.
"Good morning Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas," said the message left this month, according to a transcript provided by ABC News. "I just want to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband."
"I certainly thought the call was inappropriate," Hill, who worked for Clarence Thomas at the Department of Education and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions, said in a statement released by Brandeis, where she is a professor.
"I have no intention of apologizing because I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony," she added.
Hill told reporters that she held onto the voice mail message for nearly a week as she weighed whether it was legitimate. Eventually, she turned it over to campus police with a request that it be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI's Boston field office declined comment.
In her Senate testimony, Hill said that Thomas would make sexual comments to her at work, including references to scenes in hard-core pornographic films. Thomas angrily denied the allegations, memorably saying they amounted to a "high-tech lynching."
But Lillian McEwen, a former Senate Judiciary Committee lawyer who said she dated Clarence Thomas from 1979 through the mid-1980s, told The Washington Post in an interview that Hill's long-ago description of Thomas's behavior resonated with her.
"The Clarence I know was certainly capable not only of doing the things that Anita Hill said he did, but it would be totally consistent with the way he lived his personal life then," said McEwen, who is writing her own memoir but has never before publicly discussed her relationship with Clarence Thomas.
McEwen also told the Post she was not surprised that Virginia Thomas would leave Hill a message, even after all these years.
"In his autobiography, Clarence described himself as a person incapable of doing what Anita Hill said he did," McEwen said. "He is married to a woman who is loyal to him and religious in a way he would like to be. This combination of religiosity and loyalty and belief that he is really the kind of person who he describes in his book would just about compel her to do something like that."
The message Virginia Thomas left for Hill again revealed the emotional toll that the Hill hearings took on the soon-to-be justice's wife. In the past, she has made unsolicited phone calls to voice support for people whose reputations have been shaken by what she sees as false accusations.
In 1999, she called Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman after he wrote a front-page article about a Virginia man falsely accused of being a sex pervert. Weeping, she told Jackman that the story reminded her of the ordeal she and her husband had endured. "My husband's name is Clarence Thomas," she said.
And when author David Brock - once hailed by the right for penning a book critical of Anita Hill - was pilloried for renouncing the book he had written, it was Virginia Thomas who came to his defense. She left Brock a long voice message saying that she was praying for him and that nobody should have his name smeared like Brock's was.
At the same time, Thomas, a longtime conservative activist who now heads Liberty Central, a nonprofit group aimed at stopping what she calls the "power grabbing" of the Obama administration, has been consistent in her criticism of Hill.
In an interview she and her husband did with People Magazine just before Thomas ascended to the high court, she said of Hill: "In my heart I always believed she was probably someone in love with my husband who never got what she wanted."
In a statement released this week to the Associated Press, Mrs. Thomas said she did not intend to offend Hill with the voice mail. "I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed (sic) what happened so long ago," Thomas said in the statement. "That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same."