Image: Clarence Thomas; Virginia Thomas; Anita Hill
Larry Downing / Reuters file; Fr
Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas; his wife, Virginia Thomas; and Anita Hill.
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updated 10/19/2010 10:20:30 PM ET 2010-10-20T02:20:30

Nearly 20 years after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas’s wife has called Ms. Hill, seeking an apology.

In a voice mail message left at 7:31 a.m. on Oct. 9, a Saturday, Virginia Thomas asked her husband’s former aide-turned-adversary to make amends. Ms. Hill played the recording, from her voice mail at Brandeis University, for The New York Times.

“Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas,” it said. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.”

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Ms. Thomas went on: “So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.”

Ms. Hill, in an interview, said she had kept the message for nearly a week trying to decide whether the caller really was Ms. Thomas or a prankster. Unsure, she said, she decided to turn it over to the Brandeis campus police with a request to convey it the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Where were you when Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas in 1991?

“I thought it was certainly inappropriate,” Ms. Hill said. “It came in at 7:30 a.m. on my office phone from somebody I didn’t know, and she is asking for an apology. It was not invited. There was no background for it.”

Video: Justice Thomas’ wife asks Hill to apologize (on this page)

In a statement conveyed through a publicist, Ms. Thomas confirmed leaving the message, which she portrayed as a peacemaking gesture. She did not explain its timing.

“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 past what happened so long ago,” she said. “That offer still stands. I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended.”

In response to Ms. Thomas’s statement, Ms. Hill said that she had testified truthfully about her experiences with the future Justice Thomas and that she had nothing to apologize for.

“I appreciate that no offense was intended, but she can’t ask for an apology without suggesting that I did something wrong, and that is offensive,” Ms. Hill said.

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Andrew Gully, senior vice president of the Brandeis communications office, said Ms. Hill turned the message over to the campus police on Monday.

Ms. Thomas, 53, has long been active in conservative circles in Washington. In the past year she has become more prominent as the founder of a new nonprofit activist group, Liberty Central, which is dedicated to opposing what she has characterized as the leftist “tyranny” of the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats. The group has drawn scrutiny in part because of the unusual circumstance of a spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice drawing a salary from a group financed by anonymous donors.

'High-tech lynching'
Ms. Hill, 54, is a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis. In 1991, she was at the center of a confrontation that deeply divided the country and prompted a national debate about sexual behavior in the workplace.

Ms. Hill had been an aide to Mr. Thomas at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. President George Bush nominated Mr. Thomas to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Justice Thurgood Marshall.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Hill claimed that Mr. Thomas had repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her in the workplace, including descriptions of pornographic films. Mr. Thomas denied the allegations and called them “a high-tech lynching.”

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In her 1998 book “Speaking Truth to Power,” Ms. Hill noted that she had been accused of harboring a romantic interest in Justice Thomas by his wife. “Virginia Thomas and I have never met,” Ms. Hill wrote. “And one can imagine that she is guided by her own romantic interest in her husband when she assumes that other women find him attractive as well.”

Justice Thomas weighed in with his own autobiography in 2007, “My Grandfather’s Son, ” referring to Ms. Hill as “my most traitorous adversary” and asserting that liberal advocacy groups stooped to “the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct” to block his ascent because of his conservative views.

Ms. Hill said she had a previous but indirect interaction with Ms. Thomas. After Justice Thomas’s book was published, she said, Ms. Thomas told an interviewer that Ms. Hill should apologize. In response, Ms. Hill gave an interview reiterating that she had nothing to apologize for.

“I thought that was enough then to end it, but apparently it was not,” Ms. Hill said.

This article, Clarence Thomas’s Wife Asks Anita Hill for Apology, first appeared in The New York Times.

Copyright © 2013 The New York Times

Video: Justice Thomas’ wife asks Hill to apologize

  1. Closed captioning of: Justice Thomas’ wife asks Hill to apologize

    >>> begin with a request for an apology by anita hill .

    >> reporter: nearly two decades after one of the most dramatic supreme court confirmations in american history . clarence thomas 's wife is now trying to get her husband's accuser to apologize for those allegations of sexual harassment . anita hill is having none of it.

    >> members of the committee, my name is anita f. hill.

    >> reporter: almost 20 years later, a bizarre reopening of hill's comments clash. it began over the weekend, when clarence thomas 's wife virginia a political activist left a message on the office voicemail of anita hill . the message said i would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. so give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. 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 what happened so long ago. anita hill turns the message over to campus police . they called in the fbi. hill tells nbc news, i certainly thought the call was inappropriate. i have no intention of apologizing because i testified truthfully about my experience and i stand by that testimony. virginia thomas known as ginnie is active in tea party politics and founded liberty central , a nonprofit organization which promotes education, civil discourse and activism, focused on protecting core founding principles of the united states . it was 1991 when anita hill testified that thomas made crude sexual comments to her in the workplace.

    >> he got up from the table on which we were working, went over to his desk to get the cokes. looked at the can and ask who has put pubic hair on my coke.

    >> it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way dane to think for themselves, to have different ideas.

    >> thomas offered to take a lie detector test. three years ago, hill talked to lester holt about the experience.

    >> i was portrayed as crazy, i was portrayed as someone with an arkansas ax to grind, i was portrayed as someone who was in love with clarence thomas .

    >> reporter: now she has reopened one of the most emotionally charged political confrontations in supreme court history.

    >> andrea mitchell in washington for us on the story.

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