|Clarence Thomas describes how big it was|
An Alaska lawyer has accused Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her at a dinner party in 1999, a claim that Justice Thomas called “preposterous.”
The lawyer, Moira Smith, who was a 23-year-old Truman Foundation scholar at the time, told The National Law Journal that Justice Thomas had “sort of cupped his hand around my butt and pulled me pretty close to him” as she was making final preparations for the party, in a Washington suburb.
Justice Thomas, continuing to squeeze her buttocks, urged her to sit next to him at the dinner, Ms. Smith said. She declined. He asked if she was sure, Ms. Smith recalled. “I said yes, and that was the end of it,” she said.
Through a court spokeswoman, Justice Thomas told The National Law Journal that the episode “never happened.” The spokeswoman, Kathleen L. Arberg, said she had nothing to add to that statement.
Justice Thomas, 68, took his seat on the court 25 years ago after a searing confirmation battle that also featured accusations of sexual harassment.
Ms. Smith, who is now general counsel of Enstar Natural Gas, declined a request for an interview. But in a statement, she said that while she had felt powerless at the time of the groping, “17 years later, it is clear that sexual harassment, misconduct and assault continue to be pervasive, having an impact on all women.” She added, “I choose to speak out now in the hope that this will change.”
In the National Law Journal article, Ms. Smith said her public accusation was prompted by the disclosure this month of a 2005 recording in which Donald J. Trump boasted about kissing women without their consent and groping them.
She said she might have been flattered by the attention of a Supreme Court justice had he not been so aggressive. “But it felt somewhat menacing, and I felt vulnerable,” she told Marcia Coyle, a reporter.
Three of Ms. Smith’s former housemates and her ex-husband said Ms. Smith had told them about the episode soon after it happened, according to The National Law Journal. But several guests at the dinner — held by the head of the Truman Foundation, which awards scholarships to young people who plan to pursue a career in public service — said they had no recollection of any inappropriate behavior.
In Justice Thomas’s confirmation hearing in 1991, Anita Hill, a law professor who had worked for Justice Thomas before he became a judge, said he had tried to date her, used sexual innuendo and described pornographic movies in vivid detail.
Justice Thomas, then a federal appeals court judge, responded to the accusations with fury. “This is a circus,” he said. “It’s a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching.”
The new accusation is not plausible, said Carrie Severino, a former law clerk to Justice Thomas.
“A justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was the guest of honor at a tiny event, surely attracting the sort of swarm the justices tend to attract, yet not a single witness can corroborate Smith’s outlandish story,” Ms. Severino said.
Mark Paoletta, who worked in the White House Counsel’s Office during Justice Thomas’s confirmation hearings, said the accusations were motivated by politics.
“Justice Thomas has hired more than 30 women law clerks over the years, has worked closely with them day in and day out, and none of them has ever accused him of any inappropriate conduct,” he said. “In fact, they hold him in the highest regard. I do not consider it a coincidence that this Democratic smear on Justice Thomas comes as he celebrates 25 years on the court, and in the heat of a presidential election.”
On Wednesday, after hearing of Ms. Smith’s accusations but before they were made public, Justice Thomas was interviewed at the Heritage Foundation. He was generally upbeat and expansive, but he turned serious when asked about his confirmation hearings.
“I think that we have decided that rather than confront the disagreements and the differences of opinion, we’ll simply annihilate the person who disagrees with us,” he said. “I don’t think that’s going to work in a republic, in a civil society.”
By Adam Liptak [Twitter @adamliptak.]