Why Ginni Thomas made that weird phone call to Anita Hill.

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Oct. 20 2010 2:48 PM

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Why Ginni Thomas made that weird phone call to Anita Hill.

Ginni Thomas. Click image to expand.
Ginni Thomas

The only question left to ponder, at the bizarre news of Ginni Thomas' "olive branch" phone call to Anita Hill, seeking an apology for "what you did with my husband" (not to but with—never mind) is: Why?

Dahlia Lithwick Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. Follow her on Twitter.

Why would Ginni Thomas try to relitigate an issue that ripped this country apart in the fall of 1991, when her husband has life tenure at the Supreme Court and she has a merry band of Tea Partiers (and even merrier anonymous donors) hanging on her every word? What possible benefit could there be to leaving a cheerfully passive-aggressive 7:30 a.m. voice mail for a woman you have never even met?

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Beats me. But anyone who has followed Clarence and Ginni Thomas knows that isn't the first time they have tried to upend Anita Hill.  Back in 2007, when Justice Thomas published his autobiography, My Grandfather's Son, he assailed  Hill's honesty, cited her mediocrity as an employee, and told 60 Minutes "She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed." Ginni Thomas demanded an apology then as well. At the time, Hill was so stunned at the Thomases' need to rip open the old wound that she published a response in the New York Times and told the Boston Globe "I am surprised he has held on to the anger for that long. …  I'm surprised at the level of intensity 16 years later."

Now it's 19 years later, and apparently the Thomases' rage burns as hot as ever.  My Grandfather's Son is ample proof that Clarence Thomas lives and breathes umbrage, that no slight is forgiven, and no conspiracy theory too fanciful. Ginni Thomas, having spent three decades in the GOP policy trenches, knows a thing or two about umbrage and conspiracy theory as well. If her performance at Virginia's recent Tea Party convention is any indication, she believes the political world consists of the vicious liars in the mainstream media, the anti-democratic elitists in Washington, and a tiny bubble of goodness that is the Tea Party, her friends, and her husband.

But even if the Thomas family is still mad as hell, that doesn't explain why she'd call in October of 2010 and demand repentance, does it?

Some generous-hearted pundits have theorized that this was just woman-to-woman goodness: Ginni Thomas was truly reaching out in the spirit of reconciliation. I'm skeptical. The 7:30 voice mail accusing one of lying for two decades and requesting that one finally stop lying isn't in the top 50 dispute-resolution techniques I've researched.

My friend Nancy Goldstein wonders if this was meant to distract from a New York Times story that ran the same day as the fateful phone call, questioning Ginni Thomas' 501(c)(4) organization, Liberty Central. Perhaps, although it's difficult to imagine Ms. Thomas delivering a blistering Tea Party speech on a Friday night, opening her New York Times the next morning, and thinking, "Hey, maybe I'll call Anita Hill right this instant." Moreover, as Goldstein notes, if this was intended to distract from the conflicts around Liberty Central, it didn't work, since Hill sat on the message for several days.

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