NPR Lets Clarence Thomas-Hater Falsify Hill-Thomas Hearing History

Former ABC reporter Michel Martin has a history of one-sided bashing of Clarence Thomas. In 1994, the reporter then known as Michel McQueen helmed a 60-minute special on the ABC prime-time magazine Turning Point highlighting women who charged Anita Hill was right and Clarence Thomas was wrong. Pro-Thomas colleagues at the EEOC were not interviewed.

Outraged now at the new Clarence Thomas autobiography My Grandfather’s Son, Martin used her new forum, the National Public Radio talk show Tell Me More, to interview Angela Wright, a disgruntled employee that Thomas fired, who then denigrated him on NPR as "a mean-spirited, nasty, you know, fairly unstable person" who carried around "his self-loathing and his hatred for anything black or civil rights-oriented or affirmative action." She claimed that the Democrats never wanted her to testify. But the actual record from the hearing clearly shows that Sen. Joe Biden read a letter to Wright saying he would honor her request if she wished to testify, and then attached a statement from Wright saying "From Angela Wright, 'I agree the admission of the transcript of my interview and that of Miss Jourdain's in the record without rebuttal at the hearing represents my position and is completely satisfactory to me.'"

For a journalist who clearly submerged herself in the Hill-Thomas facts for months during the last decade, Martin could have at least asked Wright about the discrepancy between her 2007 claims and the 1991 hearing record, but she did not. She liked the story that the Democrats had no interest in Wright’s testimony. On her October 5 show, Martin took exception to columnist Ruben Navarrette for defending Thomas: "I'm sorry, Ruben. I don't - I think the record will show that nobody went to bat for Anita Hill, as evidence by the fact that Clarence Thomas has a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court."

That emotional damn-the-facts attitude against Justice Thomas – insisting that if Hill’s attempt to ruin the Thomas nomination failed, that none of the Democrats tried or that Hill had no panel of sympathetic witnesses – came through in the Wright interview. Martin was so eager to get Wright’s attacks on Thomas on national radio that she didn’t even insist that Angela Wright use her present name: "I think we should disclose that you made two requests. You insisted on being interviewed live, and you have since married, but we are not using your married name. We are using the name that you were known by at the time of the hearings, correct?"

NPR allowed Wright to completely unload on Thomas as a self-hating black man who was mentally unstable, spinning unverified stories. Martin asked for reaction to the Thomas memoir:

MARTIN: I know that you read the memoir. You read it after we contacted you, and I mentioned you aren't in the book, I don't know how you feel about that. But I just wondered if you had any reaction to Clarence Thomas's memoirs. Is there anything that you learned from the book that changed, perhaps, the way you view him or what happened between you?

Ms. WRIGHT: Well, no. I always knew him to be a mean spirited, nasty, you know, fairly unstable person. It was enlightening to read his account of his childhood because that did put it in perspective. I actually, my heart went out to the young child Clarence, once I understood, you know, he was a child, you know, whose father was absent and whose mother sent him away. He was raised by an unemotional grandfather. I finally understood where all his anger and mean spiritedness came from. I knew it was there. And also, his self-loathing and his hatred for anything black or civil rights-oriented or affirmative action.

MARTIN: By wait, wait a minute, I'm sorry, Angela. This was some fairly strong words that you're using so I do have to ask, what is the basis for your saying that you feel that there is self-loathing there? And I know we don't have - we only have a couple of minutes left but...

Ms. WRIGHT: Oh, for doing it - I know. Well, I mean, as his director of public affairs, I sat in his staff meetings while he made jokes about pickaninny dolls, and he did it for the entertainment of white people. And he teased some other white staffer who was having some trouble getting a loan or something, saying, you're just not black enough. You need to get black. Wear a Dashiki and pump your fist and then you can get all the money you want. So it was that kind of thing. He always took a special effort to denigrate anything about black people, about civil rights, affirmative - and that to me is self-loathing.

MARTIN: So finally, Angela, I know this, I feel I need to emphasize for the sake of - and we only have time for yes or no answer. Do you stand by the testimony that you gave or rather the interview that you gave 16 years ago to the Senate Judiciary Committee saying that Thomas made these inappropriate comments to you? Do you stand by those comments?

Ms. WRIGHT: Absolutely.

MARTIN: All right. Thank you so much. Angela Wright is the former director of public affairs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Now let’s return to the beginning of the interview, where the strange narrative of the Democrats abandoning Anita Hill gets unloaded. Martin introduced her with this historical claim:

Anita Hill was not the only person to make allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas. Angela Wright was the director of public affairs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from March of 1984 until March of 1985. She told Senate Judiciary Committee investigators that Thomas pressured her for dates, made comments about her body, asked about her bra size, and showed up uninvited at her apartment. But although she was subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee during Mr. Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings along with another employee whom she told about the behavior, Wright was never called to testify.

Martin then began the interview:

MARTIN: First of all, I'd like to ask why didn't you testify? You were subpoenaed to come to Washington. You were interviewed. Your interview was placed in their record, but you were never called. Now, Republican Alan Simpson, at the time, said you got cold feet. Did you get cold feet?

Ms. WRIGHT: No, absolutely not, Michel. I was fully prepared to testify. I realized it was not going to be easy, but I was - once I there, I was committed to going through with the process. The only reason I didn't testify is because I wasn't called to testify. I was there for three days, waiting with my attorneys for the Judiciary Committee to call me. And it was their decision.

At one point, I think, it may have been like 2 a.m. on a Monday morning after we've been there for three days. They decided that they really didn't need my testimony, but there was just so much maneuvering behind the scenes. They wanted me to say that, please let me out of this subpoena. And then it was, you know, they wanted to portray me as having cold feet and backing out. And when we refused that deal, they finally offered me the opportunity to at least put my statement in the record. I think, ultimately, what happened is that they were just afraid to call me. The Democrats were afraid, and the Republicans, I think.

But the actual record of that nasty weekend’s testimony speaks otherwise. Late in the evening on Sunday, October 13, hours before Wright’s Monday at 2 am story, Senator Biden announced:

The -- we only have now only one more panel of witnesses, will be limited to an hour because I'd like to read to the committee a letter that I sent to -- after a number of conversations with my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, and to Mrs. -- Miss Wright who was going to testify -- or potentially going to -- had been subpoenaed and to Miss Jourdain, who was going to corroborate the testimony of Miss Wright.

This is the letter I telefaxed to her -- to her lawyer in the office in downtown Washington a few minutes ago after extensive negotiations and discussions with Democrats and Republicans and Miss Wright's lawyer.

"Dear Miss Wright:

"It is my preference that you testify before the Judiciary Committee in connection with the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas. But, in light of the time constraints under which the Committee is operating, and the willingness of all the members of the Committee to have placed in the record of the hearing the transcripts of the interviews of you and your corroborating witness, Ms. Rose Jourdain" -- J-O-U-R-D-A-I-N -- "conducted by the majority and minority staff, I am prepared to exceed to the mutual agreement of you and the members of the committee, both Republican and Democrat, that the subpoena be vitiated.

"Thus, the transcribed interviews of you and Mrs. Rose Jourdain will be placed in the record without rebuttal at the hearing.

"I wish to make clear, however, that if you want to testify at the hearing in person, I will honor that request." Signed, "Sincerely,"

"Joseph R. Biden, Jr."

Postscript on the bottom, I attached: "From Angela Wright, 'I agree the admission of the transcript of my interview and that of Miss Jourdain's in the record without rebuttal at the hearing represents my position and is completely satisfactory to me.'"

Translated: Miss Wright and Miss Jourdain will not testify at the hearing. Their extensive interviews conducted by the majority and minority staff will be placed in the official record, available to all of our colleagues and to the press and the world without rebuttal in the record, and that will, at least, as far as this committee's investigation, at this moment, of those two witnesses, end the matter.

Now -- and not end the matter in terms of judgment, end the matter in terms of witnesses. So we're taking extensive testimony, placed in the record by both majority and minority at the request of Republicans and Democrats, as well as the potential witness. That's why I vitiated the subpoena in spite of the fact I would have preferred her to be, but in light of the time constraints, I did not insist that that be done.

As far as that notion that Democrats weren’t being Democrats that weekend, Biden was followed by ultraliberal Howard Metzenbaum asking if they could just dismiss all the pro-Thomas witnesses who remained to testify, including nine women who worked with him at EEOC. Metzenbaum and Michel Martin -- both of them want to hear only from the Thomas-hating women at EEOC.

Judiciary Race Issues NPR Clarence Thomas Anita Hill
Tim Graham's picture