In 1991, President George Bush the Elder got the opportunity to nominate a second Supreme Court justice during his term of office, a move that pundits claimed would surely swing the court into a conservative madhouse that would likely completely demolish all that the liberal left held near and dear. It goes without saying that Bush faced a bit of an uphill battle, what with the Senate being controlled by the Democrats at the time, so he decided to throw his opponents a curve ball of conflicting ideals. The person Bush nominated was named Clarence Thomas, a conservative black man who though once having been the head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government body tasked with fighting discrimination in the work place, had a long record of criticizing affirmative action. He was also seen as an opponent of abortion for some reason, though at the time he had never been quoted on the topic. Overall Clarence was also a bit of a strange choice given that he had only served as a judge for sixteen months, but Bush figured that they could use Clarence’s reputation as being an all around good guy to get past that little problem. Despite declarations by opponents that it would be a bloody brawl, Clarence’s confirmation hearings were pretty tame, with most questions centered around whether or not he thought of himself as a libertarian. With no smoking gun beyond the fact that he was a conservative, Clarence’s opponents really had no way to stop him, and as the hearings wound down it was considered certain that he would get Senate approval.
That all changed when Anita Hill entered the picture. Anita was a former employee of Clarence’s who had worked with him a decade prior in the Department of Education and the EEOC. Anita, along with most people who had worked with Clarence, had been interviewed by the FBI as part of the nominee’s background check. Though Anita had told the FBI that Clarence had sexually harassed the shit out of her, the information was not disclosed to the public, at least until near the end of the hearings when some mysterious person for totally no political reason whatsoever leaked it to the press. Clarence’s opponents lost their collective shit and the hearings devolved into a crazy ass circus with some demanding Clarence’s nomination be blocked because he was a sleazebag and others declaring Anita to be a lying bitch. Eventually, the FBI was forced to reopen its background investigation into Anita’s claims, and she was invited to testify.
Anita’s accusations did not paint Clarence as an all around swell guy. Anita stated that the harassment had happened over a two year period, starting with Clarence asking her out on dates, and when she refused, devolving into weird sexual comments. These ranged from talking about pornographic films showing group sex and beastiality, to very detailed descriptions of how awesome Clarence was in bed, to what shape he preferred a woman’s ass to be. However, by far the strangest claim involved Clarence asking Anita if she had a put a pubic hair on his can of Coke. Clarence was given a chance to refute such claims, which he did, adding in the idea that Anita’s testimony was all just a crazy conspiracy cooked up by Democrats who only wanted a black person to succeed in politics if he fully agreed with their agenda. Both sides marched out further witnesses to testify to the good character of both Clarence and Anita and both sides attacked those they saw as countering their view of what had happened.
Despite resulting in several Senators having to utter the porn star name Long Dong Silver on the record, in the end the whole thing boiled down to a he said she said situation. Though there was a second woman claiming to have been harassed, she was never called to testify. The Democrats believed that the second woman was a less reliable witness since she had been fired by Clarence for misconduct. Doubts were also raised about Anita given that she had chosen to follow Clarence from the Department of Education to the EEOC, which Anita stated was due to her believing in her work and the false hope that the harassment would end. In the end, the Senate approved Clarence by a vote of 52-48, the closest Supreme Court appointment in a century.
In the following years, more women came forward to accuse Clarence of sexual harassment or corroborate others’ accounts, but it was too late. However, the public outcry over the whole mess was too great to ignore. The accusations had turned sexual harassment into a nationwide discussion. Within months of Clarence being appointed to the Supreme Court, President Bush signed a bill giving victims of sexual harassment the right to seek damages. Harassment complaints filed with the EEOC shot up 50 percent and companies around the country started requiring sexual harassment training. The next federal election in 1992 resulted in a significant upsurge in the number of women in Congress, a trend that has continued to grow to this day.