Female Democratic Senators are warning Republicans not to have a repeat of the past as the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh recall Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas in 1991. (Sept. 18)

Is this Anita Hill, part two?

“Here we go again. Anita Hill redux,” tweeted conservative commentator Brit Hume Sunday after Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly with her allegations of a decades-old attempted rape by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

Hume was far from alone in making the comparison, and there are a number of similarities between Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas, whom she worked for at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh.

In both instances, a respected and successful female professor reluctantly came forward with “11th-hour” allegations of past sexual misconduct against a Republican nominee to the high court. The key differences: In Hill’s case, the allegations took place when she and Thomas were adults, while Ford and Kavanaugh were both in high school when the alleged event took place. And Thomas was accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, while Kavanaugh is accused of sexual assault. 

Now, like Hill, Ford is being asked to publicly voice her allegations in a second Senate hearing on the nominee and face unsparing questioning from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has a Friday morning deadline to let the committee know whether she plans to testify at a hearing scheduled for Monday.

Back in 1991, Thomas said he was a victim of a “high-tech lynching” and the target of a smear campaign. His supporters, including several members of the committee, agreed and accused of Hill of lying or being a puppet of forces opposed to Thomas’ confirmation.

Many of Kavanaugh’s supporters, who say his reputation is being unfairly tarnished for political reasons, echo those sentiments today. 

Here are six moments that defined the hearings with Thomas and Hill before an all-male committee, including several politicians who continue to be prominent today.

More: Senators ‘failed’ in 1991, Anita Hill says. But she thinks they can do better this time

Hill grilled on uncomfortable details 

Hill alleged that Thomas made repeated and “vivid” sexual references at work, including descriptions of scenes from pornographic films as well as the size of the actors’ genitalia. She said that on “several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess” and he also told her about the size of his penis.  

“Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with him at all, and particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not want to talk about these subjects,” she said.

Then-Committee Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del. – who has said regrets his handling of the hearings – asked her what was “the most embarrassing of all the incidents.” 

“His discussion of pornography involving these women with large breasts and engaged in a variety of sex with different people or animals,” she said. She also said she was embarrassed by a reference Thomas made to a porn actor named “Long Dong Silver.” 

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah – who still sits on the committee – was one of Hill’s most ferocious attackers. He later discovered a federal case that referenced the same actor and concluded that was how a “quiet” woman like Hill came upon such an offensive name. (Hatch also used the n-word twice while citing the case). 

Sen. Hatch reads ‘The Exorcist’

In what Hill called “one of the oddest episodes” of misconduct she remembered Thomas committing, she said he once asked her, when he was drinking a can of soda, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?”

In an effort to debunk her claim, Hatch accused Hill of stealing the quote from a passage in William Peter Blatty’s novel, “The Exorcist.” Hatch read from a copy of the book, quoting a character who said he had found an “alien pubic hair” in his gin. 

“She would have us believe that you were saying things because you wanted to date her?” Hatch asked incredulously. “What do you think about that judge?” 

“Senator, I think that this whole affair is sick,” Thomas replied. 

“I think it’s sick too,” Hatch said.

An ‘inquisition’ and smear campaign 

Hatch and other Republican senators were convinced that Hill had contrived her claims and implied she had been put up to it by groups trying to keep Thomas off the high court. They particularly focused on the fact that Hill did not give the same details in her statement to two FBI agents as she did in her Senate testimony. 

Hatch said the FBI agents told Hill “to be as specific as she could possibly be, and yet she never said anything about Long Dong Silver or pubic hair to them, she didn’t say it in her statement.” 

“But she said it yesterday,” Hatch said. 

Hatch believed Hill was lying and that her allegations were part of a campaign to smear Thomas in which “they have the whole country blanketed trying to dig up dirt.” 

Thomas agreed. 

“I don’t think I should be here today,” he said. “I don’t think that this inquisition should be going on. I don’t think that the FBI file should have been leaked. I don’t think that my name should have been destroyed. And I don’t think that my family should have been put through this ordeal and I don’t think that our country should be brought low by this kind of garbage.”  

‘A flat-out demolition of her credibility’ 

Then-Sen. Alan Specter, R-Penn., also conducted a fierce campaign to disprove Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment. 

In addition to implying that Hill made up the allegations in order to force Thomas to step down, he criticized her for not coming forward with the allegations against Thomas sooner. 

“How could you allow this kind of reprehensible conduct to go on right in the headquarters, without doing something about it?” he asked. 

At another point, Specter wondered if Hill was making up the allegations because Thomas did not express interest in her sexually. 

Specter accused Hill of “flat-out perjury” and described the hearing as a “very flat-out demolition of her credibility” and he said he planned to investigate if she made the allegations because she was a “spurned woman.” 

‘You didn’t really intend to kill him, but you might have’ 

“All we’ve heard for 103 days is about a most remarkable man, and nobody has come forward, and they scoured his every shred of life, and nobody but you … has come forward,” then-Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wy., told Hill. 

“It seems to me, you didn’t really intend to kill him. But you might have,” the senator said about Hill’s allegations against Thomas. “And that’s pretty heavy, I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman.” 

Simpsons said it was “very troubling” to him that a man’s life can be can ruined by a “devastating charge” that “no one has corroborated” and compared her allegations to “a singular torpedo blow below the waterline.” 

Sen. Grassley vows to see ‘this never happens again’ 

The man who sits as chairman of the Judiciary Committee today, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Hill at the time that he would not have been able to ask Hill some of the graphic questions asked by other senators. 

“It is just not my nature,” he said. 

Grassley went on to say that the “system broke down” in the handling of Hill’s allegations. 

“People are asking how we could have let your statement slip past us. ‘How could we have had the committee vote without airing this matter?’ Those are valid questions,” Grassley said. “And let me say that I am going to work towards assuring that this never happens again.” 

“Our committee gets hundreds, maybe even thousands of allegations in a nomination like this one,” he said. “And we rely upon our chairman and ranking member to determine which ones need investigation and which ones might be coming from cranks and crackpots. They determined this one needed investigation and they called in the FBI. But somewhere along the process, something broke down.” 

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