Clarence Thomas was 33 years-old when he went to work at the Department of Education, and he was 34 years-old when he went to work at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He was 42 years-old when he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. But, for Richard Cohen, men in their thirties and forties are capable of youthful indiscretions.
I was young and boorish once myself and have turned out to be a veritable saint. I venture to say we all did and said terrible things when we were young, which is why nature protects the elderly with failing memories. I want to forget both Hill and Thomas. Let us media types let go of this story. It no longer says anything about them. But it says nothing good about us.
Richard Cohen has reason to be dismissive of sexual harassment charges, having narrowly avoided losing his career over his treatment of a 23 year-old staffer back in 1998. So, it isn’t all that surprising that he doesn’t think Anita Hill’s charges, even if true, didn’t amount to a hill of beans.
Her charges fell somewhat short of blatant, coercive, sexual harassment — or, if they didn’t, then why did she follow her abuser, Thomas, from one job to the next? A black, female Yale Law School graduate was not lacking in employment opportunities.
Here’s a little reminder of the definition of sexual harassment from the same EEOC office that Clarence Thomas worked at while he was making unwanted advances on Anita Hill:
Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee, against his or her wishes.
According to a current issues update from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment occurs, “when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
Now, how does that definition stack up against Hill’s testimony?
I declined the invitation to go out socially with him and explained to him that I thought it would jeopardize what at the time I considered to be a very good working relationship. I had a normal social life with other men outside of the office. I believed then, as now, that having a social relationship with a person who was supervising my work would be ill-advised. I was very uncomfortable with the idea and told him so.
I thought that by saying no and explaining my reasons my employer would abandon his social suggestions. However, to my regret, in the following few weeks, he continued to ask me out on several occasions. He pressed me to justify my reasons for saying no to him. These incidents took place in his office or mine. They were in the form of private conversations which would not have been overheard by anyone else.
My working relationship became even more strained when Judge Thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. On these occasions, he would call me into his office for reports on education issues and projects, or he might suggest that, because of the time pressures of his schedule, we go to lunch to a government cafeteria. After a brief discussion of work, he would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters.
His conversations were very vivid. He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises or large breasts involved in various sex acts. On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess.
Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with him at all and particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not want to talk about these subjects. I would also try to change the subject to education matters or to nonsexual personal matters such as his background or his beliefs. My efforts to change the subject were rarely successful.
Remember that Cohen is saying that even if Hill’s charges were true, it wasn’t blatant sexual harassment. But his sexual advances were unwanted, his actions interfered with her job performance, and his language was highly offensive. So, how does Cohen view this?
Thomas stands nearly alone on the court in his shallowness of his scholarship and the narrowness of his compassion. But when it comes to his alleged sexual boorishness, he stands condemned of being a man.
His latest accuser is an old flame of his, Lillian McEwen — lawyer, prosecutor, administrative judge and, some desperate publisher willing, author of a manuscript detailing time kept with Thomas way back in the 1980s, a bit before the modern era. The revelations — so banal as to comprise a virtual exoneration — are that Thomas was obsessed with women, likes them big-breasted, and indulged in a critical viewing of pornography…
Actually, Ms. McEwen was a bit more explicit.
“He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners,” McEwen said matter-of-factly. “It was a hobby of his.”
…According to McEwen, Thomas would also tell her about women he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled him telling her.
I don’t think all men make it a habit of propositioning their employees and asking them about their bra size. There are cases where innocent flirtation is taken the wrong way but to get a harassment case you have to engage in a pattern of behavior over time.
The bottom line is that Richard Cohen doesn’t see anything wrong with mistreating women in the workplace. He’s done it himself. And he wasn’t young when he did it. By the time he abused Devon Spurgeon he’d been working for the Post for thirty years.