Explosive sexual harassment allegations that nearly derailed a Supreme Court nominee's confirmation 19 years ago returned to the headlines Wednesday with the justice's wife calling his accuser to ask her for an apology.
Anita Hill's allegations against then-nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 sparked a national debate about sexual harassment in the workplace. Thomas, who denied the allegations, was narrowly confirmed by the Senate. Hill was alternatively hailed for her bravery for stepping forward or villified as a politically motivated liar.
Thomas' wife, Virginia, had left a voicemail message on Hill's phone over the weekend asking her to say she was sorry for the allegations that surfaced at Thomas' confirmation hearings for a seat on the top court bench.
"I have no intention of apologizing because I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony," Hill, now a Brandeis University professor, said in a statement released Tuesday night.
In her statement, Hill said, "I certainly thought the call was inappropriate." She had worked for Clarence Thomas in two federal government jobs prior to the time he was selected for the court by President George H.W. Bush for the Supreme Court.
During his Senate confirmation hearings, Clarence Thomas adamantly denied Hill's accusations that he made inappropriate sexual remarks, including references to pornographic movies. Thomas said he did talk about X-rated movies while at Yale Law School, adding that so did many other young people in the 1970s.
Thomas, the court's only black justice and just the second African-American to serve on the court, called the nationally televised hearings a "high-tech lynching."
Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, said in a statement that she was "extending an olive branch" to Hill.
In a transcript of the message provided by ABC News, which said it listened to the recording, Thomas identified herself and then said, "I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day," Thomas said.
When Hill heard the voicemail, she contacted Brandeis' public safety office, which in turn informed the FBI.
In her statement, Virginia Thomas said she did not intend to offend Hill.
"I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed (sic) what happened so long ago. That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same," Thomas said.
FBI Special Agent Jason Pack, a spokesman at bureau headquarters in Washington, declined to comment on the voicemail.
Mrs. Thomas is a founder of a new nonprofit group, Liberty Central, which opposes what she has characterized as the leftist "tyranny" of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. She was a keynote speaker earlier this month in Richmond, Virginia, at a state convention billed as the largest tea party event ever.
Hill had worked for Thomas at the Education Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She first made her allegations after Thomas had been nominated to the top court, 10 years after she began working for him and only after she was contacted by congressional investigators.