October 4, 2007

Another Dimension Of The Thomas Smear

I spent some time last night reviewing some of the transcripts from the "high-tech lynching" delivered by the Senate Judiciary Committee to Clarence Thomas, just to refamiliarize myself with the actual testimony and evidence. It almost felt like jumping into Peabody's Wayback Machine, only in this case the transcripts reveal the truth rather than a facile and inaccurate misrepresentation. Based on a momentary reference in Thomas' book, I reread the testimony of John Doggett, who had come to the panel to testify on behalf of Thomas -- and who ended up facing the exact same smear, from the same apparent authors.

Let me set the stage for readers. Doggett, a successful black attorney who knew both Hill and Thomas, had come to testify on Thomas' behalf -- and had done so with little issue. However, Senator Howard Metzenbaum's turn came up to start asking questions, and he immediately accused Doggett of being a sexual harrasser himself (page 562-3 of Part 4 of the transcripts):

Senator METZENBAUM. Mr. Doggett, I haven't had a chance to read the full transcript of your testimony that was given in the telephone interview with several staff members representing Senator Biden, Senator Heflin, Senator Thurmond, Senator Leahy and Senator Specter. But let me read you some portions of it, because I think we are talking about Anita Hill, and I think we need to also talk a little bit about Mr. Doggett, and this is a question to you:

Now, since we have received your affidavit and since your statement has gone public, the majority staff has received word from an individual who said she worked with you at McKenzie. Answer: Yes. And she has made some allegations concerning yourself. Answer: All right. And did she give you a name? Answer: She did. And we will move to that. I wanted to let you know where this line of questioning was going, to turn at this time. Answer: All right. I am not surprised. Question: This morning, we spoke with a woman named Amy Graham, who said she worked with you ... at McKenzie & Company, and I believe you started down there in August of 1981. Answer: That is correct. Let me tell you generally what her allegations were, and then I will ask you some questions, and then I will turn back to Ms. DeOreo, to follow up with some questions. Answer: All right. Question: Ms. Graham indicated that, on her first day of work, when she met you, along with other people in that office; first of all, very succinctly, do you remember Ms. Amy Graham? Answer: I do not. Question: You do not? Answer: I do not. Question: She claims that, on her first day at work, at some point in the day, I believe she said—I don't have the transcript available yet, but at some point during the day you confronted her in the hall, in front of an elevator, and kissed her on the mouth and told her that she would enjoy working with you very well. She also—Answer: You know, I also got—I deny that. I didn't remember the woman, and that is outrageous. I also got a message on my answering machine after you guys went public with my affidavit, saying "This is your Texas whore from five years ago." Somebody, I don't know, never met, who decided that she was going to claim to be my whore.

Question: Mr. Doggett, let me just tell you generally her allegation, and then I will give you adequate opportunity to respond. I think that, in all fairness, that you need to know what she said, and then you can respond overall. She also claimed that, during the time that she worked there—she was 19 years old when she began work, she is 29 years old now—she also claimed that at times, in front of the copying machine—and again, I am just going from my recollection, I don't have the transcript—that you would rub her shoulders at the copying machine. At the time, you suggested to her, "Oh, you are making copies, that is sort of like reproduction, isn't it?" She also said that some of your conversation dealt with sexual innuendo, there was sexual overtone in your talk. But what struck me, though, is she also said that you weren't in the office very much. So, first, if you could respond to Ms. Graham's allegations, and then I have some questions I want to discuss with you. I am still reading: Answer: I do not remember Amy Graham. If she was there, she was not there as an associate or as a researcher or as a consultant, but was there as a part of the secretarial staff. I never made any comments or statements to anybody like that. I never did anything like that, so I categorically deny it. I am, quite frankly, not surprised that somebody has come out of the woodwork to make a claim like this. That's the nature of this business.

Metzenbaum had broken the rules of the committee by reading unsworn testimony into the record. His staffers had tried to dig up dirt on Doggett before his testimony, and found a young woman who made unsubstantiated allegations of harrassment against Doggett, and whose version contradicted itself in several ways. The staffers then called Doggett and asked him about the allegations, who immediately and vehemently denied them. Metzenbaum had set Doggett up, but Doggett wasn't about to take it lying down:

Mr. DOGGETT. Senator, your comments about this document are one of the reasons that our process of government is falling apart. First of all, Senator, I have a copy of the statement that this person met—it is called a transcript of proceedings. But, Senator, if you read this, it is as telephone conversation that she has with some staff members pro and against Mr. Thomas, and she is not under oath. I did not do any of the things that she alleged. In fact, the first time any of these issues were raised was the day before I was supposed to come here, 8 1/2 years later. I knew when I put my information into the ring, that I was saying I am open season. For anybody to believe that, on the first day of work, for a woman working in the xerox room, who is 19 years old, a 33-year-old black man would walk up to a 19-year-old white girl and kiss her on the mouth as the first thing that they did, whoever believes that really needs psychiatric care. But let me talk about the facts, since you brought up this statement, which was not made under oath, which was not made consistent with any of the rules that you Senators are supposed to be responsible for, since this is the Judiciary Committee, let me talk about that, since you asked the question and went on and on and on. During that time that she—I have read this statement. If she had made it under oath, Senator, I would go to court, but

Senator METZENBAUM. This isn't her statement. I am reading from your statement, Mr. Doggett.

Mr. DOGGETT. The statement that you read from was a discussion with me, and consistently your staff people said, "I don't have the transcript, I don't remember the exact facts." Well, I have the transcript and the exact facts show this woman to be a profound liar who does not even remember the facts accurately.

Metzenbaum knew he wasn't allowed to enter the testimony of the woman into the record, because she had not submitted her testimony under oath. Metzenbaum instead used the underhanded method of taking Doggett's conversation -- also not under oath -- as a means to smear him publicly with the unsworn allegation. It was, as one Senator later complained, the same as if a staffer had told Doggett about a rumor that he beat his wife on a regular basis, and then entered it into the record to discredit Doggett regardless of the truth.

And for those of us who watched it, it seemed very similar to what was happening to Clarence Thomas at that exact moment -- and from the same people, too.

Doggett let Metzenbaum have it with both barrels:

Mr. DOGGETT. I will tell you, Senators, before I talk about the specifics, I debated, myself and with my wife, whether or not to start the process that resulted in me being here, because this is vicious, and I knew, since anything I said was going to raise the question about the credibility of Professor Anita Hill, as a lawyer, that meant my character was open season. I have never been involved as a candidate, although I have always said you can't complain about the process, if you're not willing to put your ass on the line—pardon me, I am sorry. I am sorry about that.

Senator METZENBAUM. Mr. Chairman --

Mr. DOGGETT. But I have said if you don't like the way the political process is, then you have to get into it and you have to get into the fray. So, I said, okay, if I submit this information to this committee, then I am open season and people are going to shoot at me, and I do not care. I have information I think the committee needs to hear. If they feel it is relevant enough for me to be here, I will be here and I will take whatever occurs. But I will tell you, sir, I have had lawyers and professional people in Texas and around the country say that I was insane to subject myself to the opportunity to have something like this crawl out from under a rock. They have said I should have just stood on the sidelines and let it go by. I am an attorney, sir

Senator METZENBAUM. Mr. Doggett --

Mr. DOGGETT [continuing]. I am a businessman and I cannot allow this process of innuendo, unsworn statements and attacks on characters to continue, without saying it is unacceptable.

If anyone doubted that there existed a concerted effort to commit character assassination in that proceeding, that portion of the testimony should have removed all doubt. The modus operandi was the same -- a sexual smear against a black attorney designed to discredit him. It again relied on unsubstantiated allegations, culled from an incident that purportedly occurred years beforehand. And it was designed to intimidate the target into withdrawing from the proceeding, and also failed.

It was the clearest example of McCarthyism since Tail Gunner Joe, and most people don't even know that it happened. The guardians of history have not seen fit to show exactly how unscrupulous Thomas' enemies were. It was despicable, and that was the entire Thomas confirmation process in a nutshell.


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