|Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: AP|
For nearly two decades, Lillian McEwen has been silent -- a part of history, yet absent from it.
When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill's allegations.
Lillian McEwen was that woman.
At the time, she was on good terms with Thomas. The former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel had dated him for years, even attending a March 1985 White House state dinner as his guest. She had worked on the Hill and was wary of entering the political cauldron of the hearings. She was never asked to testify, as then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), who headed the committee, limited witnesses to women who had a "professional relationship" with Thomas.
|Lillian McEwen, former girlfriend of Justice Clarence Thomas, who has written a book about their relationship: Bill O'leary/Washington Post|
In her Senate testimony, Hill, who worked with Thomas at two federal agencies, said that Thomas would make sexual comments to her at work, including references to scenes in hard-core pornographic films.
"If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it," Thomas responded to the committee.
McEwen scoffs softly when asked about Thomas's indignation, which has barely cooled in the 19 years since the hearings. In his vivid 2007 memoir, the justice calls Hill a tool of liberal activists outraged because he did not fit their idea of what an African American should believe.
McEwen's memoir describes her own "dysfunctional" family in the District and, ultimately, a long legal career.
She charts how she developed an "inner self" to escape the chaos of her childhood. Her story also includes explicit details of her relationship with Thomas, which she said included a freewheeling sex life.
Given that history, she said Hill's long-ago description of Thomas's behavior resonated with her.
"He was obsessed with porn," she said of Thomas, who is now 63. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting."
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