WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says in a memoir that went on sale on Monday that “left-wing zealots” pursued him during his 1991 confirmation hearings with “the age-old blunt instrument of accusing a black man of sexual misconduct.”
In “My Grandfather’s Son,” Thomas denounces his former aide, Anita Hill, who accused him of sexual harassment, for betraying him. He also condemns the liberal interest groups who opposed him because he says they feared he would vote to overturn abortion rights.
“The mob I now faced carried no ropes or guns. Its weapons were smooth-tongued lies spoken into microphones and printed on the front pages of America’s newspapers,” he says of the hearings.
“But it was a mob all the same and its purpose -- to keep the black man in his place -- was unchanged,” says Thomas, 59, a conservative and the second black to serve on the Supreme Court.
Thomas reportedly was paid a $1.5 million advance for the 289-page book, which is currently No. 2 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list. Its release was timed to coincide with the opening of the Supreme Court’s new term.
The sensational charges by Hill resulted in one of the most contentious Senate confirmation battles in history, engulfing the entire nation in a debate over sexual harassment.
Hill, a law professor, charged that Thomas had badgered her for dates and offended her with sexually explicit talk when she was his aide at a government agency from 1981 to 1983.
A furious Thomas denied all the charges and raised his own countercharges of racism and victimization. He denounced the hearing as “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.”
In his book, Thomas says that as a child growing up in the South, he feared the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan.
“My worst fears had come to pass not in Georgia, but in Washington, D.C., where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes, but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony,” he wrote.
President George H.W. Bush in 1991 nominated Thomas to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Thurgood Marshall, a liberal, a civil rights crusader and the first black on the court.
Thomas says that Hill during the hearings had been falsely transformed into a conservative, devoutly religious Reagan administration employee.
Thomas said that only three employees from the agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, would support Hill’s version, and all of them had been fired or left on bad terms.
Thomas also writes that he encountered racism when he was studying to be a Roman Catholic priest in the late 1960s. He left the seminary, disillusioned with his faith and the church’s silence on the treatment of blacks in America.
“I have often thought that my life might well have followed a different route had the church been as adamant about ending racism then as it is about ending abortion now” he writes.
The book covers his up-from-poverty story from tiny Pinpoint, Georgia, and his upbringing by his grandfather. It ends with his account of the confirmation hearings.