A new book about the 1991 confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says that the Senate Judiciary Committee deliberately avoided following up on additional evidence that Thomas may have lied when he denied allegations of sexual harassment.

The book, titled "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas," and written by two Wall Street Journal reporters, describes the committee as awkwardly and only half-heartedly pursuing the truth of harassment charges made in testimony by law professor Anita F. Hill. It portrays individual senators as stymied by a lack of committee leadership, political fears and their own alleged personal indiscretions.

Showing Thomas as a man who talked crudely about sex and propositioned female co-workers, the book calls into question his denials to the committee. It uses statements from Thomas's friends and associates from his college years through his nomination to the court by then-President George Bush to show that he had a long-held, active interest in pornography.

Written by Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, the book published yesterday already has contributed to the ideological and factual debate that began with the hearings three years ago. A book published last year, "The Real Anita Hill: The Untold Story," by David Brock, contended that Hill lied in her Judiciary Committee testimony. Brock was attacked by liberals and harshly reviewed in a lengthy article in the New Yorker by Mayer and Abramson. {Mayer is married to Washington Post National Editor William B. Hamilton}

Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), who was Thomas's chief Senate sponsor, published his own account of Thomas's confirmation hearings, titled "Resurrection." It contends that Thomas believed his opponents would have stopped at nothing -- including fabricated stories -- to derail his nomination.

The new book has received extensive publicity, including lengthy treatment last night on ABC's "Turning Point" and "Nightline." Danforth and other Thomas supporters have sought equal time in the media to counter the version of events presented by Mayer and Abramson.

Thomas declined to comment yesterday on the new book. His longtime friend and colleague, Armstrong Williams, said, "There is nothing new in the book. It's he said, she said, they said. Unless there was an eyewitness there, no one knows what happened" between Thomas and Hill.

The book introduces new people who might have corroborated parts of Hill's allegations if they had testified. "Strange Justice" says, "If Thomas did lie under oath, as the preponderance of the evidence suggests, then his performance, and that of the Senate in confirming him, raises fundamental questions about the political process that placed him on the court."

"I could have brought in the pornography stuff," Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) is quoted as saying. "I could have decimated {Thomas} with that. I could have raised it with more legitimacy than what the Republicans were doing. But it would have been impossible at that point to further postpone the hearings for more investigation into his patterns of behavior ... and it would have been wrong."

Biden said he was trying to be fair to the nominee and to respect his privacy.

Williams, who was a confidential assistant to Thomas in the mid-1980s when Thomas was chairman of the EEOC, said of the report of Thomas's interest in pornography: "That's his private life. He never discussed {pornography} with me." Williams said that once when Williams was about to purchase a Penthouse magazine, Thomas stopped him, saying, "that's garbage."

"Strange Justice" uses statements from Thomas's friends and associates to undermine Thomas's testimony that he never talked dirty with Hill.

The authors, after interviewing acquaintances as far back as his college years at Holy Cross, report that he often recounted sexually explicit films in lurid detail. Kaye Savage, a former colleague, reports that the walls of his bachelor apartment were covered with Playboy nude centerfolds. The owner of a video store near the EEOC said Thomas was a regular customer for pornographic movies.

During Thomas's confirmation hearings, four witnesses testified to corroborate Hill's testimony. The book also contains a fifth corroborating witness for Hill's personal account. Bradley Mims, a friend of Hill's in the early 1980s, said she had been upset by Thomas's lewd talk.

The book details the previously reported sexual harassment allegations of three other former Thomas employees: Angela Wright, who says Thomas talked to her about her breasts and legs; Rose Jourdain, who corroborates Wright's story; and Sukari Hardnett, who said there was a "sexual dimension to Thomas's treatment of women at the EEOC."

Hill had offered the Judiciary Committee graphic testimony, including that Thomas had once picked up a soda can and said, "Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?" Thomas denied that he said or ever would have made such a comment.

In the book, two former EEOC officials say they had heard rumors about Thomas making that remark. Neither had personally heard it.

Committee members agreed not to pursue Thomas's personal interest in pornography and decided not to call women who had come forward to support some parts of Hill's testimony.

As the new book and other reports have made clear, the committee members were viciously partisan over the Thomas nomination, with each side trying to discredit the other's witnesses. They decided, despite some misgivings, to close the hearings, shed themselves of the matter and put Thomas's nomination to a vote of the full Senate. He was confirmed by a 52 to 48 vote, the closest for a nominee this century.