IN A WIDE RANGING INTERVIEW, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS DISCUSSES HIS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIFE AND SAYS THE REAL ISSUE AT HIS CONFIRMATION HEARINGS WAS ABORTION ? "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
In His First Television Interview, Thomas Talks About His Poor Childhood, His Influential Grandfather, His Yale Law School Experience and Many Other Aspects of His Life
In his first television interview, in which he discusses his childhood, his race, his rise to Supreme Court Justice and his job on the nation's highest court, Clarence Thomas says the real issue at his controversial confirmation hearings 16 years ago was abortion. Saying the issue was "the elephant in the room," Thomas also tells Steve Kroft that the hearings he called at the time a "high tech lynching" harmed the country. The interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday Sept. 30 (7:30-9:00 PM/ET, 7:00-9:00 PM /PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Thomas, whose Supreme Court positions on abortion issues have been conservative, says the confirmation hearings in which he was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee - allegations he continues to deny - were really about abortion. "That was the elephant in the room....That was the issue. That is the issue that people are apparently so upset about," he tells Kroft. "[That is the issue] that you determine the composition of your Supreme Court and your entire federal judiciary, it seems now," says Thomas.
He says the hearings harmed the accuser, Anita Hill, himself, and ultimately the country by setting a precedent manifested in other highly charged, media-infused events such as the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. "The process harmed her. It harmed me and we see sort of the precedent of this kind of thing begin to harm even people like President Clinton," Thomas believes. "Things are out of control. That's not good for the country. It's not good for the court," he continues, "What are we going to look like years from now if we can't get people confirmed because everybody gets to attack them. They get to draw and quarter them," he says.
In the interview, Thomas also expresses an opinion of his accuser for the first time in public, saying of Hill, who waited 10 years to accuse him, "She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed. That's not the person I knew," Thomas says. "She could defend herself, let's just put it that way....She did not take slights very kindly and anyone who did anything, she responded very quickly," he says. When Kroft rejoins, "Didn't take 10 years?" Thomas replies, "It didn't take 10 minutes."
Kroft and 60 MINUTES cameras spent four days with Thomas, visiting the two Georgia towns where he grew up, Pinpoint and Savannah, and Washington D.C. Multiple interviews were taped in those locations, including his chambers at the U.S. Supreme Court Building.