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THE REAL ANITA HILL: THE UNTOLD STORY

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Although it has already generated intense controversy, this book has yet to produce many converts. Conservatives-including Rush Limbaugh and George Will- have applauded it as persuasive proof that Anita Hill lied. Liberals, like New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, have called it biased, inaccurate, and wildly speculative. What’s all the fuss about? David Brock’s thesis, in a nutshell, is that the charges against Clarence Thomas were the product of a case of mistaken identity run horribly amok. The theory goes something like this: In 1981, Hill complained to her friend Susan Hoerchner that her boss was sexually harassing her. Hill was actually working for a Washington, D.C., law firm at the time, but a decade later, Hoerchner misidentified Thomas as the man who had been a ”pig” to her friend Anita. Hill, motivated by either embarrassment or by left-wing fervor, failed to correct the confusion when she took the witness stand. Before long, Hoerchner had passed the rumor to friends, who passed it to liberal special-interest groups, who passed it to Democratic staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who leaked it to the press. Hill was pressured on all sides to come forward. Rather than be humiliated, she told a whopper. It is, if nothing else, an ingenious house of cards. The problem is that as an explanation it’s infinitely less plausible than the one possibility Brock never considers: that Clarence Thomas did what Anita Hill said he did. The book does highlight some inconsistencies in the testimony of Hill and her defenders. Hoerchner originally remembered Hill’s talking about the harassment in the spring of 1981, several months before she was hired by Thomas. And Hill maintained she followed Thomas from the Department of Education to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because she was afraid she would be fired if she stayed behind. Hill must have known that as a career appointee she could not be fired. But these holes can be attributed to a fallible memory and to Hill’s unwillingness to admit she was at fault in any way. The alternatives- that she perjured herself to save face or as part of a diabolical plot to destroy someone who had done her no harm-simply don’t make sense. One strong point is the book’s convincing outing of the Senate leakers who gave Hill’s affidavit to the press. This was an interesting and important part of the story, but one that other journalists weren’t eager to pursue. The question of who leaked the story bears not at all, however, on the question of who told the truth. And on that point, The Real Anita Hill is anything but convincing. C

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