An Alaska lawyer has come forward to claim that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999

By Tierney McAfee
Updated October 28, 2016 01:32 PM
Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty

Anita Hill is calling for a “fair investigation” into the new sexual harassment claim against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Hill — the law professor who famously accused Thomas of sexual harassment and testified against him during his 1991 confirmation hearings — is speaking out after an Alaska lawyer told the National Law Journal that Thomas groped her at a Truman Foundation dinner in 1999.

The woman, Moira Smith, was a young Truman Foundation scholar at the time of the dinner party, where she says Thomas “cupped”and “squeezed” her buttocks several times.

Thomas denied the claim in a statement through the Supreme Court’s spokeswoman to the National Law Journal, saying: “This claim is preposterous and it never happened.”

Smith said it was not Thomas, but the release of Donald Trump‘s 2005 hot-mic tape that motivated her to come forward. After listening to the tape, she said she decided “enough is enough.”

She posted her allegations on Facebook on Oct. 7, hours after it was revealed that Trump had boasted on tape about kissing and touching women without their consent.

“When Justice Thomas touched me inappropriately and without my consent, I was 23 years old — and felt there was nothing I could do,” Smith said in a statement released Wednesday, according to The Washington Post. “Seventeen years later, it is clear that sexual harassment, misconduct and assault continue to be pervasive, having an impact on all women. I choose to speak out now in the hope that this will change.”

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She also told the National Law Journal, “We now know that many men in power take advantage of vulnerable women. That willingness by men in power to take advantage of vulnerable women relies on an unspoken pact that the women will not speak up about it. Why? Because they are vulnerable. Because they are star-struck. Because they don’t want to be whiners. Because they worry about their career if they do speak out. But silence no longer feels defensible; it feels complicit.”

Guests of the dinner party, including Louis Blair, the then-head of the Truman Foundation, told the National Law Journal they had no prior knowledge of the alleged groping. But friends said Smith told them about the incident that night and following morning.

Amy Hertel Buckley, 39, another Truman scholar at the dinner that night, told The Washington Post, “I don’t remember the specific timeline. But when I saw her Facebook post, it was instantly familiar to me. It’s been a long time, but she definitely told me about that after it happened.”

Smith’s allegations come on the 25th anniversary of Thomas’ confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1991. In the midst of his confirmation hearings, Hill, then a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, came forward to accuse Thomas of sexually harassing her while she was working for him as an aide at the Department of Education and at the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

The scandal launched a nationwide conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace and nearly derailed Thomas’ appointment. But he was ultimately confirmed to the Supreme Court later that year.

Now, as some are already questioning the timing of Smith’s allegations on Thomas’ 25th anniversary on the court and in the midst of the presidential election, Hill is pressing for a “fair investigation … by an appropriate body.”

“To say that something like this is coming for political gains ― and of course that was an allegation that was directed at me ― is undermined by the fact that 16 years before, she went to friends and told people,” Hill told the National Law Journal Thursday, according to Huffington Post. “So this is not something that she’s told for the first time at this point, this is something that people knew and they seem to be confirming.”