On July 1, 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to replace Thurgood Marshall, America’s first black justice. For compensation, President Bush decided to nominate a second black justice, but this time one with conservative views, which turned out to be extraordinarily controversial.
Thomas’ nomination was already fairly controversial even before Anita Hill came out accusing him of sexual harassment. Ultimately, due to the fact that Thomas’ nomination was shrouded in controversy, the media was allowed to play a big opposition role against Clarence Thomas. They did everything in their power to ruin the career of this accomplished conservative black man.
Prior to observing the Anita Hill controversy, it is important to recognize that Clarence Thomas already had substantial opposition. One of the bigger reasons why this was the case was because of the unusual situation Bush had put liberals in. Many liberals had enjoyed Thurgood Marshall’s tenure because of his views on civil rights. Although liberals had hoped to maintain their pro-minority stances, they could not help but be perplexed at Clarence Thomas because of his conservative views.
This scenario had liberals eventually coming out to oppose Thomas’ nomination because they preferred someone with views similar to their own. Furthermore, the NAACP came out in opposition to Thomas for they felt as though his views on civil rights were “inconsistent.” In other words, the organization created to advocate for black people decided to oppose a black person. This decision by the NAACP, along with Thomas’s inexperience as a judge, already stirred up intense opposition from the media.
Despite the fact that Thomas was already opposed by the liberal establishment, it was not until Anita Hill decided to expose him that droves of women decided to oppose him as well. Hill was a black woman who had studied psychology at Oklahoma State University and law at Yale University. She entered the political scene accusing Clarence Thomas of harassment while working at the US Department of Education.
Along with opposition to Thomas on the basis of his views, he was now being opposed due to alleged unethical behaviors including mistreatment of a woman. Eventually, Anita Hill was granted an opportunity to give testimony in front of the Senate. Many have concluded that she was harassed in the hearing because she had to speak in front of an all-white, all-male panel that directly challenged her integrity with tough questions. Subsequently, the media portrayed her as a victim of patriarchal oppression. All of these factors had the media fully backing Hill as she challenged Thomas’ confirmation.
Consequently, the media had gotten under Thomas’ skin. After Hill’s testimony, he was furious and blatantly denied all allegations levied against him. In addition, he accused the Senate panel of racism just because they were going bringing up the issue. More specifically, he claimed the Senate was taking part in what he called “high-tech lynching.” Such expressions from Thomas only proved that the media’s hectoring had gotten under his skin and rattled the man.
Historians now recognize this controversy as an anecdote helping them to understanding how race relations, gender, and media influences modern-day politics. Evidently, this was one such instance where the media had a profound effect on the outcome of this controversy due to their opposition. Still, it was not enough for them to stop Thomas’ confirmation, just as their campaign against Donald Trump was unsuccessful last year.