Ex-girlfriend dishes dirt on Clarence Thomas

Zachary Roth
Senior National Affairs Reporter
The Upshot
Clarence and Virginia Thomas

Virginia Thomas' now-famous phone call to Anita Hill has had at least one consequence that she can't have intended.  It's prompted a former paramour of her husband's to dish salacious and troubling details about the Supreme Court justice's past to the Washington Post.  And many of those details are in sync with accusations that emerged around Clarence Thomas' contentious 1991 confirmation hearings.

"He was obsessed with porn," Lillian McEwen, tells the paper.  "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting."

McEwen also said that the conservative Thomas was constantly on the make at work.  "He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners," said McEwen. "It was a hobby of his."

She added that he once told her he had asked a woman at work what her bra size was.

McEwen, 65, said the two dated from around 1981 until 1986, when both were divorced and were working on Capitol Hill and in government.  The Senate Judiciary Committee did not call on her to testify during Thomas' confirmation hearings, and she chose not to come forward at the time.  But she said that the news of Virginia Thomas' call to Anita Hill -- asking Hill to apologize to her husband -- prompted her to speak publicly about her relationship with Clarence Thomas, now 63.  She is currently shopping a memoir, and said she hopes that speaking about Thomas will boost interest from publishers.

McEwen's descriptions of Thomas jibe with some of the accounts of the jurist's alleged conduct that emerged at the hearings and in their aftermath.

Hill, who worked under Thomas' supervision at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision,  testified that Thomas made inappropriate sexual comments to her at work, including referring to scenes in hard-core pornographic films -- charges Thomas denied.

Click image to see a slideshow of the Thomases and Hill


AP

Angela Wright, another former employee of Thomas' at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told Senate interviewers he had once asked her at work: "What size are your breasts?"

In their 1994 book, "Strange Justice," Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson reported on Thomas' alleged taste for pornography:

The interest in pornography that Thomas first exhibited at Yale apparently continued through the early 1980s, when Long Dong Silver was a well-known figure among fans of X-rated movies. According to Barry Maddox, the proprietor of Graffiti, a video rental and equipment store just off Dupont Circle, a few blocks from the EEOC's headquarters, the store began to rent pornographic videos in 1982. Not long afterward, Maddox recalled, Thomas became a regular customer.

But as Mayer and Abramson go on to explain, that background information never got incorporated into the fast-moving Thomas confirmation hearings:

That same day, three reporters from the Washington Post, two of them working together, burst into the newsroom almost simultaneously with information confirming that Thomas' involvement with pornography far exceeded what the public had been led to believe. They had eyewitnesses, some ready to talk on the record. Among them was Barry Maddox, the proprietor of Graffiti, who remembered Thomas as a customer in his store. Just as the editors of the Post were weighing this news, reports of Thomas' surprise swearing-in began crossing the news wires.

"I have no hostility" toward Thomas, McEwen, a Democrat, told the Post. "It is just that he has manufactured a different reality over time. That's the problem that he has."

(Photo of the Thomases in 2007: AP/Charles Dharapak)