Feeling Her Pain: CNN Awards Anita Hill a Softball Interview

October 3rd, 2007 11:58 AM

Following ABC’s lead and sixteen years of puffball precedent, a CNN camera crew with an unidentified reporter caught up with Anita Hill in New York City and threw softball questions at her. The interview aired on Tuesday’s "The Situation Room," at the bottom of the 5 pm Eastern hour. The "unidentified male" used the term "painful" in two of his questions to describe Hill’s past in the Clarence Thomas saga. For example, "Do you think your experience, as painful as it was, changed the society and its approach to this particular issue?" I guess that’s the kind of "withering scrutiny from the press" Robin Roberts was referring to on Tuesday’s "Good Morning America."

The full transcript of the Anita Hill interview from Tuesday’s "The Situation Room:"

WOLF BLITZER: All right, Carol, thanks very much. And as we said, a CNN crew caught up with Anita Hill in New York and asked her about the Thomas allegations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Thomas has said that you were a political pawn, he described you as such, a front of other issues, about the abortion issue.

HILL: Well, the amazing thing is that there have been several books written about the hearings since then by independent journalists. They have all investigated those charges that were raised in 1991, and he raises now, and they've all found them to be false. They haven't shown one connection between me and anyone who was politically-motivated to keep him off the court. What happened and, and I will repeat this, was that I was contacted by the Senate, and the Senate contacted me and asked me a direct question about what happened to me in the workplace and I responded truthfully. And there was no intermediate group that put me up to anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have maintained a very private life over the last 16 years. Is it difficult for you to relive this, now that Judge Thomas has written a book and made these public comments?

HILL: You know, in many ways I have made peace with what has happened, what happened in 1991. Even what happened in the years that I was working with Thomas. I think, at this point, one of the things that I will say that has helped me to do that is really the letters and calls and the prayers of a lot of different people, and I've moved on. But, when comments like those made by Judge Thomas are made, again, completely unsubstantiated comments, then I have to speak out, and that's why, you know, I wrote a piece today for publication in the 'New York Times' and I'm doing very limited interviews, except for when you catch me on the street. And, so, yes, I do live a private life. But I do speak about these issues and I've learned a lot about them since.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took a very personal attack, called you a mediocre employee, upset over passed over for a promotion, that you were not the conservative religious woman you appeared to be. I mean, what do you make of this?

HILL: Well, what I make of it, knowing what I know about sexual harassment claims and what I know about, generally, about workplace abuse claims, discrimination claims, is that this is a typical tactic that accused people take. When you're accused of bad behavior, as opposed to wanting people to look at all of the evidence, look at all the credible evidence, what you do is you attack your accuser. And you mischaracterize them, you slander them, you smear them. And in effort to deflect the truth, and, in fact, I know what the truth is. I testified about it in 1991 and I maintained that testimony today is as truthful today as it was then, and will always be. I know what happened to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been a justice on the highest court in the land. I mean, do you have a feeling about that? He really did win.

HILL: In essence, he won. He got what he came for, and I think, I'm not sure what his expectations were. But that's for him to resolve. It's not for me to resolve. The only portion of this that I have to respond to is his characterization of me and what I feel is the real injury that it can do to other people who want to stand up for their rights. That if they see a Supreme Court justice behaving in this way, they can see that that's going to be the model for other people who are accused of wrongdoing. And that's what they're going to have to face and it's hard enough to stand up for your rights anyway. But when you have this kind of behavior being played out by a Supreme Court justice, I think it is, it has a chilling effect on claims. Now, on the other hand, it could have just the opposite. And I hope that's what happens. And I think, hope that people are even more adamant about speaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is that hope? Can you express that and what your hope is to come out of this very painful incident?

HILL: Well, my hope is that people will look at all of the evidence. And they'll look at all of the things that have been written since I spoke out in 1991. That they will evaluate those carefully. Including all of the witnesses that attempted to come forward during the time of the hearing that were kept from testimony, including the evidence of people who have come forward and talked to these authors since then and have talked about his behavior, either towards them or that they witnessed him behave in public places. Or, you know, that they saw this kind of behavior before. I hope that people will look at everything and evaluate it in that way and say, you know, you just can't always believe people just because they are in power and just because they seem to have authority.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think your experience, as painful as it was, changed the society and its approach to this particular issue?

HILL: You know, I can't be a judge about how much society was changed entirely. What I do know is that I hear from people regularly saying that this experience, my experience, helped them to understand their own experience. And it helped them, and for those people who haven't had problems in the workplace, it also helped them to understand the experience of others. So, I think that it was a time of turmoil, and it was a difficult time and painful for people to watch. But I do think that it was a moment in which we, a moment in history in which we became educated about the way the workplace works, and how it fails, in terms of trying to achieve fairness and equality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Thank you.

HILL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Anita Hill speaking with CNN earlier today. This note. We've invited Justice Thomas to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're hoping that he will do so and do so soon.