The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
MR. LEHRER: Good evening. Leading the news this Monday, President Bush said public support for Clarence Thomas is holding strong and a Burmese opposition leader won the Nobel Peace Prize. We'll have the details in our News Summary in a moment. Charlayne Hunter-Gault is in New York tonight. Charlayne.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: After the News Summary, we devote most of the NewsHour to the Clarence Thomas story. We'll assess how this weekend's emotionally charged marathon testimony played on Capitol Hill and around the country, and we'll close with a Clarence Page essay on Columbus Day. NEWS SUMMARY
MR. LEHRER: Two Democratic Senators reaffirmed their support for Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas today. The announcements were by Bennett Johnston of Louisiana and Dennis DeConcini of Arizona. Each said the weekend hearings on charges Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill, a former assistant, did not change their minds. President Bush spoke today about support for Thomas. He made his remarks as he returned to the White House from Camp David this afternoon.
PRES. BUSH: I'm very pleased with the way the support all across the country is holding strong for Judge Thomas. It's important to note that among Afro-Americans, black Americans, the support is very, very strong. That is significant and I think highly important, so it appears to be holding and now the vote will take place and I think that's about all I care to say about it right now.
MR. LEHRER: A coalition of women's groups held a news conference today. Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights Action League said the message to women was not to speak up if they were harassed because they will become victims of character assassination. This evening, Anita Hill spoke to supporters in Norman, Oklahoma.
ANITA HILL, Professor, University of Oklahoma: It's good to be home. These last few days I have had so much help and comfort from my friends in Washington, but I could feel the comfort coming from you too. It's kept me going and now it really feels good to be back here with you. What has sustained me through all of this has been knowing that I could return home, back to my way of life, back to you. Words simply cannot express the kind of anguish that I have experienced over the past several days. I came to Washington because I was asked by the Senate. I did not initiate this investigation which led me to these hearings. I was trying to do my duty as an ordinary American citizen. And I simply told the Senate investigators the truth. The only personal benefit that I have received from this experience is that I have had an opportunity to serve my country.
MR. LEHRER: We'll have more on this story after the News Summary. Charlayne.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Sec. of State Baker continued his latest round of shuttle diplomacy today in an effort to forge a Mideast peace conference. We have a report narrated by Tom Brown of Worldwide Television News.
MR. BROWN: This is his eighth trip to the Middle East since the end of the Gulf War. And James Baker is running out of time. Washington hopes to hold a Middle East peace conference by October 31st, and many questions remain unanswered. One of the key issues is that of Palestinian representation. Jordan's King Hussein has demanded that Jordan meet a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation. The PLO wants the chairmanship to rotate among delegate members. Washington is calling for the Palestinians to participate as part of the Jordanian delegation. Earlier in the day, Baker met Egypt's President, Hosne Mubarak. The four hour meeting ended on a positive note. Asked whether he thought Washington would meet its October the 31st deadline, Baker said:
SEC. BAKER: The United States remains committed to that goal and remains committed to working very closely with you to bring that about.
MR. BROWN: Baker's next stop will be Syria and then Israel, where he will meet the Soviet foreign minister later this week.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir survived a "no confidence" vote today over his government's position on a peace conference. The vote in parliament was 55 to 46. The opposition Labor Party issued the challenge to Shamir after he expressed doubts that a peace conference would ever take place.
MR. LEHRER: The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to a Burmese opposition leader. En Sen Su Chi is a 46 year old woman who has been under house arrest for more than two years. She was the leader of a non-violent campaign to topple the ruling military Junta in Burma, now known as Mianmar. She has repeatedly condemned the government's human rights abuses and called for democratic reforms. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Su Chi's struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: In Yugoslavia today, a relief convoy was forced to turn back from the Croatian city of Vukovar. It came as fighting in the civil war intensified. We have a report by Paul Davies of Independent Television News.
MR. DAVIES: The medical teams had risked their lives to reach the sick and injured of Vukovar, but for a third time they returned to Croatian lined, having failed in their mission. The EEC observers desperately disappointed they'd reached the outskirts of the besieged town but continued fighting had eventually forced them to turn back.
SIMON SMITS, EC Observer: Taking all the risks that we had taken yesterday, shelling and firing all night, and then you can only be disappointed.
MR. DAVIES: Traps loaded with emergency supplies now heading away from where they were desperately needed. MiG jets of the federal air force attacked targets in Eastern Croatia. The violence continued with new evidence of massacres. A peasant farmer arrives at the mortuary at the Croatian town Kalavatz. During a lull in the fighting, he had collected 18 bodies, alleged victims of Serb extremists. The mortuary is overflowing. More than 60 dead have been taken here in the last two days. Many bodies had been severely mutilated. There are claims they'd been tortured and bludgeoned to death. A steady trickle of refugees arrive each hour, some too weak to walk the last few yards.
MR. LEHRER: Twenty-three people died this weekend in violence among blacks in South Africa. Most died when about 30 gunmen opened fire on a bar in nearby homes in Soweto Township outside Johannesburg. Police said they believed the attackers came from the migrant workers' camp dominated by the Inkatha Freedom Party. About 100 people have been killed in fighting between members of Inkatha and the African National Congress since the two factions in the federal government signed a peace accord one month ago.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: That's it for the News Summary. Still ahead, fallout from the weekend testimony in the Thomas-Hill drama and an essay on Christopher Columbus. FOCUS - TAKING SIDES
MR. LEHRER: This was contemplation day for the 100 members of the United States Senate. Tomorrow evening about now they are scheduled to vote on whether to confirm Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court and thus, declare themselves believers or non-believers of charges he sexually harassed a woman employee, a woman named Anita Hill, now a law professor at the University of Oklahoma. We will hear from four of the one hundred Senators right after this set-up backgrounder by Judy Woodruff.
SEN. BIDEN: This entire proceeding is ended.
MS. WOODRUFF: With that gavel, Chairman Joseph Biden ended three of the most remarkable days in the history of the Congress. Senators investigating allegations of unwanted sexual advances by a Supreme Court nominee had waded out into uncharted and often seamy waters, hoping to arrive at the truth. But when the hearings ended at 2 o'clock this morning, 33 hours and 22 witnesses after they began, the Senate was right back where it started, having to weigh his word against hers. Anita Hill, a University of Oklahoma law professor, worked for Clarence Thomas during the early 1980s at the Department of Education and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to tell her story.
ANITA HILL, Law Professor, University of Oklahoma: 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 material 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.
MS. WOODRUFF: Judge Clarence Thomas had appeared to be within days of confirmation to the Supreme Court when the Anita Hill story broke. Now, he was forced to return to the Judiciary Committee to defend himself, and did so with a blistering attack against his accuser, his opponents, and against the committee, itself.
JUDGE CLARENCE THOMAS, Supreme Court Nominee: I would like to start by saying unequivocally, uncategorically, that I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her or that I in any way ever harassed her. Second, and I think the more important point, I think that this today is a travesty. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way dane to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you cow tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.
MS. WOODRUFF: Thomas continued to lash out throughout his testimony. When he concluded Saturday evening, Committee Chairman Joseph Biden lashed back.
SEN. BIDEN: I'm getting fed up with this stuff about how terrible this system is. I hear everybody talking about how terrible the primary system is. We're big boys. I knew when I ran for President, everything was free game. Anybody who runs for the Supreme Court or is appointed to the Supreme Court, to be more precise, should understand it's not boy scouts, it's not cub scouts. In the case of the President, it's for the right to be leader of the free world, and no one ever said it would be easy. And whoever goes into the Supreme Court is going to determine the fate of this country more than anybody. For the next 20 years, we're going to have people scrupulous and unscrupulous respond and react. So, Judge, this is less directed at you than it is to my pontificating colleagues, Democrat or Republican alike. So, Judge, I have not made my judgment based upon this proceeding because we have not heard all the evidence.
MS. WOODRUFF: Most members of the Judiciary Committee came away from the first two days of hearings agreeing on one thing, both Hill and Thomas were credible witnesses, their testimonies powerfully convincing. The Senators' hope was that the truth could be found somewhere among the 20 supporting witnesses who testified on Sunday. The rare Sunday session began with a panel of four, each saying it was years ago that they independently learned of Anita Hill's problems with Clarence Thomas.
ANITA HILL SUPPORTER: In the fall of 1982, Prof. Hill shared with me in confidence the fact that she considered Judge Thomas's behavior toward her in the office to be inappropriate. Prof. Hill did not at that time, nor in subsequent conversations, provide exact details about the action she found inappropriate conduct. She did tell me they were sexual in nature.
JUDGE HIRSHNER: She told me that she was being subjected to sexual harassment from her boss, to whom she referred by name. That boss was Clarence Thomas.
MS. WOODRUFF: A second panel of four, each having worked with Thomas and Hill at the EEOC, called the allegations preposterous and searched in vain for a motive behind Hill's accusations.
CLARENCE THOMAS SUPPORTER: Everyone who knows Clarence knows he is a very proud and dignified man. With his immediate staff, he is very warm and friendly, sort of like a friend or a father. You could talk with him about your problems, go to him for advice, but like a father, he commanded and he demanded respect.
MS. WOODRUFF: In addition to the testimony, it was revealed that on Sunday, Anita Hill took and passed a lie detector test, according to the polygraph expert who administered it.
PAUL MINOR, Polygraph Expert: It is my opinion that there was no indication of deception to any of those, to any of those relevant questions.
MS. WOODRUFF: Under pressure from Republicans on the committee, however, Chairman Biden called the test "inconclusive" and announced the results would not be placed in the record.
SEN. BIDEN: If we get to the point in this country where lie detector tests are the basis upon which we make judgments and insist upon people having them and by inference of those who don't have them that they did something wrong, we have reached a sad day for the civil liberties of this country.
MS. WOODRUFF: It will be up to each member of the Senate to decide whether the test carries any weight with them. The vote on Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court is set for 6 o'clock tomorrow evening.
MR. LEHRER: And now to four of the one hundred Senators, two had declared their support for Clarence Thomas before the Anita Hill charges surfaced, Bennett Johnston, Democrat of Louisiana, and Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and two Senators who were announced opponents beforehand, Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey. None of the four are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducted the Thomas-Hill hearings. They watched them on television, along with the rest of us. Senator Johnston, you were in favor of the Clarence Thomas nomination before the hearings over the weekend. Does this, did the fact that you still support him mean that you did not believe Anita Hill?
SEN. BENNETT JOHNSTON, [D] Louisiana: That's correct. I found that she was a credible witness. I thought he was too. But the difference is that the conduct for which he was charged was simply inconsistent with a lifetime of service by him and, indeed, the charges were inconsistent with her conduct, following him to the EEOC, making these telephones, which were really, some of them admittedly, social in nature, saying, for example, call me tonight, or just called to say hello. Those are not the actions of a woman who is deeply hurt, mortified, shocked at the kind of conduct which she charges Judge Thomas with.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Wellstone, you were opposed to the Thomas nomination. You're still opposed to the Thomas nomination. What did you hear, if anything, over the weekend that confirmed your beliefs?
SEN. WELLSTONE: Well, Jim, let me first of all go back to the original confirmation process. I think that's been lost sight of. What bothered me about that process was that Clarence Thomas came in, said that he had no articulable, judicial philosophy, that he was an empty vessel, did not have views on the basic constitutional questions of our time. And I can't give my advice and consent to anyone who says that. So I think the process broke down at that point in time. You can't have checks and balances unless you really have some understanding of the kinds of basic philosophical views a Judge will have who will sit on the court for decades to come.
MR. LEHRER: So it was irrelevant to you what happened then on, Anita Hill versus Clarence Thomas?
SEN. WELLSTONE: Well, let me put it this way. My decision was announced several weeks ago. I really think the process broke down at those original hearings. It's not irrelevant to me what happened this weekend or for the past half a week. I think there's been a social earthquake in this country, I really do. I think very important allegations have been raised, and it's been very brutal for everybody involved, but I think there's more discussion going on in the United States of America outside of Washington about the question of sexual harassment, apart from what you think about Clarence Thomas, than has taken place for a long time in our country. I think that's for the good.
MR. LEHRER: All right. Let me be very specific. Do you believe Anita Hill's charges against Clarence Thomas?
SEN. WELLSTONE: It is impossible to reach a conclusion on the basis of just evena half a day's hearings. I'm not at all clear that it's going to be possible for people to reach that kind of decision. I will say this. I think the questions that she raised were very important questions. You have to be fair as well, of course, to Clarence Thomas. But for me, I made this decision several weeks ago, and, again, I would advise other Senators to go back to the original confirmation process and decide in the overall context of what Clarence Hill said then and what's happened this past half a week.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Lugar, you were a supporter beforehand. I take it that you -- I know you still support Clarence Thomas. Does that mean you do not believe Anita Hill?
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, [R] Indiana: Well, I found her appearance to be extraordinary and really a conclusion of a process that has been extraordinary. I think that Sen. Wellstone touches upon a very important point, and that is the checks and balances of this situation commenced with the President appointing or nominating a man who is a conservative. Now, there a good number of people on the Judiciary Committee that didn't like that idea, and what I suspect the process has come to now is that some nine Senators, more particularly their staff members and members of the press, members of interest groups who really don't like the idea of an additional conservative Judge on the court, set out to defeat him. In this particular case, they reached very far, because the charges were sexual, they came in the final innings of the process, and the type of thing that occurred in political campaigns from time to time in which the candidate has almost no opportunity to defend against the insinuation. So I listened, nonetheless, to all of it carefully. I would say that I found the Professor to be incredible in many respects. I suspect I would agree that the presentation was very smooth and very articulate, but if I had to make a choice, it was clearly with the Judge.
MR. LEHRER: Why?
SEN. LUGAR: Essentially, because I believed him. I think he has a lifetime that was put before the committee and before the country, public service that has been extraordinarily admirable, idealism expressed by himself and by those who worked most closely with him; that counts a great deal for me.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Lautenberg, what effect, if any, did the hearings have on your views about Clarence Thomas?
SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG, [D] New Jersey: Well, I declared my views about 10 days ago, and I did that on the basis of what Clarence Thomas represented as his views of the Constitution, individual rights to privacy, property rights versus individual rights, reference to natural law. And I was persuaded that he had neither the seasoning nor the experience to sit on the Supreme Court. Over the weekend, I had a chance to listen and to watch what was taking place. And, frankly, nothing changed my view, except to confirm my belief that Judge Thomas should not at this point take a seat on the Supreme Court.
MR. LEHRER: Do you believe, Sen. Lautenberg, that Clarence Thomas made unwelcome sexual gestures toward Anita Hill, as she charged?
SEN. LAUTENBERG: Well, I think that one has to give her charges some credibility. She had witnesses who attested to conversations about her unease, who said that she had the character and the honesty not to make issues like that casually. On the other hand, the Judge's witnesses or friends talked only about his character. They couldn't make any reference to the allegation, and I think that he comes out somewhat damaged. And if he goes to the Supreme Court, which still is in some doubt, I think he goes with a stigma that is unfortunate but, nevertheless, there. And I think that ought to be examined in some way. To take that seat perhaps with less than an overwhelming majority, I think leaves some doubt about how well Judge Thomas can serve on the Supreme Court.
MR. LEHRER: What about that point, Sen. Johnston, that even if he is confirmed tomorrow, that Clarence Thomas has been damaged and as a Justice of the Supreme Court?
SEN. JOHNSTON: Well, I don't believe that. I think two or three years from now, if Judge Thomas is confirmed, and I expect he will be by three or four, five votes, three or four years from now, we'll be judging Judge Thomas based on his opinions and this will be long forgotten. It is a phenomenon of public affairs that these intense public feelings are soon forgotten. And I think this will be and he will be judged by new standards.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Lugar, if Sen. Johnston is right and the vote tomorrow turns out favorable for Judge Thomas, does that mean that these three days of hearings, this wrenching exercise that the country went through, changes nothing, that all of you who were in favor of Judge Thomas beforehand are still in favor of Judge Thomas, all of those Senators who were opposed to Judge Thomas like Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Wellstone are still opposed to Judge Thomas, that all this meant nothing?
SEN. LUGAR: No. I think it meant a great deal. I must say that as I listened to this, a sense of anger really arose that the process has come to this, that a good man could be damaged in this way. The suggestion has been because these accusations have been made that he's been damaged, therefore, he ought not to serve. If we've come to that point in this country, the same symbiotic relationship between interest groups, staff members, press people, who share certain philosophical viewpoints, will go after every person, male or female, who offers himself or herself a public service. It is an awesome and terrible thing to behold. The American people have watched this and they haven't liked it. And they're absolutely right in their disgust.
SEN. JOHNSTON: Let me say that I really think that this will not be forgotten. This will be remembered, and it ought to be, because people will be much more sensitive now about sexual harassment. It's a tremendous problem in this country. I and others who support Judge Thomas are not immune to that. I think we are more aware of that than ever. This really was not about sexual harassment. It's about who do you believe.
SEN. WELLSTONE: Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Yes, Senator.
SEN. WELLSTONE: If I could --
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Wellstone, right.
SEN. WELLSTONE: I mean, I understand what I think Dick and Bennett are trying to say, but I think it's a little one-sided. I mean, quite frankly, let's not just talk about Justice Thomas; let's talk about, let's talk about Prof. Hill. She raised some serious allegations. All too often in the history of our country, women are discounted when they raise those allegations. I mean, I think it was a very brutal process for her. I do not believe it was politically motivated. I do not think it's fair to say so. And I do not think we're just talking about a regular person. We're talking about questions that were raised about Clarence Thomas when he was chair of the EEOC. I think she came in with some very important questions and she should not be discounted. Even if it's impossible to reach a firm conclusions, let's not belittle what she had to say by implying that it was political or had something to do with interest groups. It's been brutal for everybody, including Clarence Thomas and Prof. Hill.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Lautenberg, another point that was raised today by some women's groups that the way Anita Hill was treated, particularly by the Senators who support Clarence Thomas, sends a message to the women of America, this is what will happen to you if you come forward and complain of sexual harassment, are they right?
SEN. LAUTENBERG: Well, often we've heard the complaint that the victim turns into being victimized a second time. And I think we saw evidence of that. I thought that some of the questioning was unusually cruel, unusually sarcastic. The suggestion that perjury may have been committed I think was out of line in that hearing. I think that Anita Hill helped do something, and that is to elevate the fact that women's rights are violated often. This kind of confirmed it, and I don't think that we can dismiss this on a majority vote basis. I think that if it's a 51/49 or 52/48 vote for Clarence Thomas, I think something has been said about the system that obviously needs correction. I don't think this was all a shabby circus. I think it helped elevate an issue that needed airing. I think it helped also for the American people to see what takes place. I think it's unfair to say that some interest groups were on the side of Anita Hill when we saw a totally orchestrated presentation on the other side. This is not to say that Clarence Thomas isn't a credible candidate, isn't intelligent, isn't a public spirited person, but there are some doubts cast and you can't dismiss it by accusing others of interfering in the process.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Lugar, as a Republican Senator watching the hearings over these last three days, were you proud of the way your Republican colleagues conducted themselves in their questioning of Anita Hill and the other witnesses?
SEN. LUGAR: Well, I felt that they were very aggressive, as were Senators on the Democratic side. All of the people felt very strongly about their beliefs and about how this ought to turn out in a very difficult situation. But let me just say, this is not just a philosophical quest about harassment in the work place, or even about racism, as that came up. The question was still the competence of the Judge and clearly, that got lost sight of. I suppose on behalf of my Republican colleagues, they gave as good as they got, and essentially in this kind of a mud bath that was ensuing there the whole situation began to look pretty dreary.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Johnston, what about the mud bath aspects of this? Forget for a moment Anita Hill and the interest groups and all of that. But most of the mud that was being thrown those three days was by members of the United States Senate at people who were sitting in front of them and references, all of that. Did that make you uncomfortable, to see your colleagues do that?
SEN. JOHNSTON: Well, it did, but really, I thought it's what the Constitution has in mind. It ought to be public. The Senate has got to decide it. Tensions are great. The stakes are great. And look, it doesn't mean that you're insensitive to women, the fact that you ask, for example, Anita Hill why she made these telephone calls just to say hello, sorry I missed you last week. I mean, that's fair game. If she's going to go after a Supreme Court Justice to try to bring him down, then she's got to answer those questions.
MR. LEHRER: So you agree with Sen. Lautenberg that you came down on a different side when it was all over, but you agree that this was a healthy process?
SEN. JOHNSTON: It's the only process you can have under the Constitution.
MR. LEHRER: Senator --
SEN. JOHNSTON: I certainly wouldn't want to have the FBI deciding this.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Lugar.
SEN. LUGAR: I think you extend me a little bit when you say I call it a healthy process.
MR. LEHRER: Okay.
SEN. LUGAR: I think it's an acceptable process. Could it have been cleaned up, so to speak, yes, but I think that what happened is we got into the political forum and that was an unfortunate thing. There was a lot of television presented, a lot of opportunities for people to try to make points, and I think we began to lose sight of what the hearing was about.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Lugar, let me go to Sen. Lugar, because you're the one who disagrees about this. You agree with Clarence Thomas that this was a travesty and a disgrace and not the way things should be conducted in a democratic nation, is that right?
SEN. LUGAR: Well, yes, I do. I think as Prof. Hill told people as she came back to the campus this evening, she did not initiate this process. She was called by the Senate, more particularly by Senate staff people who sought her out after interest groups discovered her testimony might be useful, particularly if it was of a certain variety. It was a very calculating process. Now, this just doesn't rise out of free debate. I would just simply say the timing of the process or the ignoring of the testimony that came to the FBI by the committee was deplorable.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Wellstone.
SEN. WELLSTONE: Well, I was just trying to climb into say, Jim, that I can't say that the process worked all that well. I mean, I think that again whatever you think of the allegations by Prof. Hill when she raised those allegations, they were really discounted at the beginning and they shouldn't have been. I think the hearing process was absolutely brutal. I don't think it worked very well. I don't think this has been a great week for politics in the country.
MR. LEHRER: Sen. Wellstone, let me ask you this. On Sen. Lugar's complaint, on the complaint that was heard repeatedly by the Republican Senators during the last three days, that Senate staffers are the ones that triggered this. Do you believe that the Senate staff should not have pursued complaints about, allegations against Clarence Thomas about sexual harassment, or do you think that, do you think they did something wrong, in other words, in pressing this issue?
SEN. WELLSTONE: I'm not on the committee. I don't know what the staffers did. I mean, I think that the point is that when these allegations first came to the attention of the committee, that's when we needed to have those addressed. It's a change that it all had to just break out in the open at the last minute like it did, and I think it became very, very brutal for everybody involved. So I mean, I think staffers needed to investigate as far as leaks and everything else. I don't know anybody that does defend that.
SEN. JOHNSTON: But, Paul, the reason this was not investigated when it first came out was because the professor, herself, asked that she remain anonymous.
SEN. WELLSTONE: She is --
SEN. JOHNSTON: If there's fault here, it's her fault.
SEN. WELLSTONE: Bennett, I beg to -- you know, we agree on some things and then sometimes we disagree. This is a time we disagree. The fact that Prof. Hill asked for anonymity does not mean that the charges that she brought or the allegations could not or should not have been investigated further. And they weren't, not - -
SEN. JOHNSTON: You said they should have been heard publicly.
SEN. WELLSTONE: No, No.
MR. LEHRER: Senators --
SEN. LAUTENBERG: I'd like to add something, if I could.
MR. LEHRER: Very quickly, please, Senator.
SEN. LAUTENBERG: Yeah. That is the stakes were high. Everybody knew it. And there was no reason not to search out for any question about character as well as competence. Certainly, character fits into the competence review. And I don't think that there was a problem. It may have been a timing problem, but I don't think it was a problem with appropriate stuff investigating the background of this nominee.
MR. LEHRER: Well, gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Charlayne.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Now, how this looks around the country. We get editorial reaction from our regular panel of six plus one. The plus one is Patrick McGuigan of the Daily Oklahoman; the six are Ed Baumeister of the Trenton [N.J.] Times, Lee Cullum of the Dallas Times Herald, Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, Gerald Warren of the San Diego Union, Erwin Knoll of The Progressive Magazine, published in Madison, Wisconsin, and Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Constitution. Starting with you, Cynthia, did this story over the weekend capture attention down your way as it did in New York and Washington?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, Atlanta Constitution: Oh, absolutely. I was riveted. I stayed in front of the television most of Friday morning, all Friday morning, much of Saturday, much of yesterday, and most of my friends did as well. So it absolutely dominated the conversation here. When I wandered into grocery stores, or wherever I went on my Saturday errands, people were talking about it.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: The Atlanta Constitution changed its position over the weekend. Tell me a little bit about that. Why?
MS. TUCKER: Indeed, we did. We did something unusual. We withdrew our support for Judge Thomas. We recommended that President Bush withdraw his name from consideration. We were reluctant supporters of Judge Thomas's to begin with. He had some credibility problems with us stemming from the first set of hearings. That was mentioned earlier, and I think that was right. Judge Thomas distanced himself from all of his earlier strong political positions. He seemed evasive and when he said that he had never even discussed Roe Versus Wade with anyone, it seemed quite implausible. So he had already strained credibility. And this second set of hearings just further strained his credibility for us. In the final analysis, we decided he was just not suited to serve on the court.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Was the straw that broke the camel's back you believed he was lying, or this just added to your concern about his credibility?
MS. TUCKER: It did add to our concerns, and I think I have to say that we have more faith in Prof. Hill's version of events. I find it incredible that absolutely nothing inappropriate took place between Judge Thomas and Prof. Hill, and so when he insisted on a categorical denial, I just had all of my, the members of the editorial board of the Atlanta Constitution found that unacceptable.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Gerry Warren, how about the interests in your part of the country and your readers? You've been polling them today.
GERALD WARREN, San Diego Union: We did poll them. The interest is extremely high in San Diego. Everyone I talked to today and over the weekend had been following this very closely. Our poll really supports the national polls that I have seen. We found that 55 percent of San Diego County residents were inclined to vote for the nomination of Clarence Thomas and that 27 were not so inclined. So that's a little higher than our neighbors in Los Angeles, where I think it was 51/27.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: And did your paper change its editorial position over the weekend as a result of the hearings, or how did that affect it?
MR. WARREN: No. We supported the nomination from the start. We believe now even more firmly that Clarence Thomas should be confirmed because what is lost in the discussion of the process, and I think the process was terrible in this case, is the fact that the accuser bears the burden to prove that the, in this case the nominee did what she said he did. And that was not done to our satisfaction. So we firmly support the confirmation.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Patrick McGuigan, how about Oklahoma, the state where Miss Hill hails from and has returned to? I imagine the interest out there was quite high.
PATRICK McGUIGAN, Daily Oklahoman: The interest is very high. People all over the state care about the issue and have been discussing it. It's been the topic of conversation even this weekend at soccer matches. A lot of people were talking about it.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What about your newspaper, did it change because --
MR. McGUIGAN: No. We've been supportive of Judge Thomas all along. We remain supportive. We're horrified by this process. I would say that opinion in the state by and large is supportive of Judge Thomas, but I hasten to add that here in Norman, there's a lot of support, quite understandably, for Prof. Hill. You have two very compelling personalities here and it's become clear in the last three days that both of them have very ardent friends.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: In Madison, Wisconsin, Erwin Knoll, what kind of attention is it getting out there and has public opinion shifted at all?
ERWIN KNOLL, The Progressive: Very close attention I think because many people complained to me today that they had to spend this marvelous weekend glued to their television sets instead of watching the colors of the foliage, and I did too. Have people changed their minds? My impression is not. My impression is that those people who had reservations or strong opposition to Judge Thomas perhaps have intensified it now. Those who supported it perhaps have intensified that position. Our own feeling at The Progressive has always been that Judge Thomas was a terrible choice for the Supreme Court and we've heard nothing in these last few days to make us change that view.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But where did you come out on the issue of his credibility on the sexual harassment?
MR. KNOLL: I found Prof. Hill credible. I found her corroborative witnesses credible, but I must add that part of my feeling about that was that I thought that Judge Thomas in his previous testimony, before the question of Prof. Hill's charges came up, had been so clearly dishonest to the committee about his position on Roe Versus Wade, about his various positions in the past, that he had lost all credibility before this issue arose.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Clarence Page, what's happening out in Chicago? I know you're in Washington today, but hopefully you've been in touch with Chicago.
MR. PAGE: Very much so.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Did your paper change its position?
CLARENCE PAGE, Chicago Tribune: Our paper has not changed its position. For one thing, tomorrow we have an editorial which says that we have concluded that the results are inconclusive. There has been no compelling evidence that can help everybody make up their mind firmly one way or the other, although we all have hunches. I personally have a hunch that Prof. Hill is telling the truth, or at least a large degree of the truth. Memories over 10 years can either enhance or diminish certain aspects of a story. A number of us suspect the truth may be somewhere in-between the two accounts. Is that enough to keep Clarence Thomas off the court? By itself, editorially, we do not think so. One interesting to add though, Charlayne, the reactions around the Chicago area in all have been very much like what you've heard from the rest of the country, but the Chicago Tribune dispatched a team of reporters, most of them black, to get different reactions from folks and found that in the black community there seems to be more intense reactions in a lot of ways, certainly in terms of dismay, distress, and depression over watching, if I may use a common colloquialism, our business put in the street, in other words, two very successful, young, up and coming, upwardly mobile black professionals, one male, one female, and this very sordid story's coming out on national television. It's a big embarrassment for black folks and it's something that I think plays into the emotions in the black community. I think the same kind of divisions that have divided the general population over these two accounts may be even more intense among black Americans.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Although today President Reagan specifically mentioned that support was holding up among black Americans -- I'm sorry, President Bush.
MR. PAGE: I was interested in that reaction. President Bush, I agree with President Bush on one account. I think a number of black folks who were wavering, especially black males, when they saw Clarence Thomas under attack, males suddenly sympathized with his situation and especially that very emotional line of his, a "high- tech lynching of an uppity black who thinks for himself," I personally think that was drama for the moment, a clever lawyer's trick, but I think it did work with a lot of folks who heard it.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Ed Baumeister, what about your part of the country?
ED BAUMEISTER, Trenton [N.J.] Times: Well, this morning I ran into a neighbor who said not good morning, but what a mess, and didn't have to explain what she meant by that. I think I have detected today an awful lot of dismay about the process, who were the Senators, were they judges, were they prosecutors, were they supporters, were they politicians? They seemed to play very different roles, asking the people who supported the professor, do you think Judge Thomas should be confirmed. It seems, you know, why is that a relevant question to what you know about what happened in 1981?
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: But how much did this affect people's attitudes one way or the other about Clarence Thomas's credibility, or about Anita Hill's credibility, and did it change your paper's editorial position?
MR. BAUMEISTER: No. We had an editorial this morning reminding people that we opposed his nomination based on his lack of experience. We tend to think that Prof. Hill was the more credible witness, but I think as far as people were concerned, they didn't know. It was a real roller coaster. I mean, you listened to one witness and then the supporters and then you listened to the other and the supporters. You went up and down. I think people are confused and a little angry at the end of it all.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What about in your part of the country, Lee Cullum?
LEE CULLUM, Dallas Times Herald: Charlayne, in Dallas, people are deeply divided on the question of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. They seem to be entirely united in their outrage at the United States Senate. I must say that our own editorial board feels that Sen. Biden handled the thing extremely well. That might have been his finest hour, that speech that we've just shown on the show tonight. But as for the process itself, it showed a desperately decadent nation. That was certainly the overwhelming response in Dallas. As for Anita Hill, my feeling is that she's credible. I believe her. I'm not sure that we're getting the whole story from either one of them. There may have been more to their relationship than they're willing to tell. But I think she's credible.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What about the ABC poll today though that said more people were inclined to believe Thomas? What do you --
MS. CULLUM: I know that.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What about the people in your area?
MS. CULLUM: In Dallas, I would have to say that what Clarence Page is saying about black leadership in Dallas, particularly among the male leadership, is happening in Chicago really is happening in Dallas also. They are switching to Thomas. Those who weren't for Thomas now are for him now. They're flying to Washington to support his cause.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Are there any things that you think had more of an impact than others say in this overwhelming or what appears to be growing public support for Thomas? I mean, there was demeanor, there was the witnesses, there were choices of words, as Clarence Page just referred to, about the legal lynching, there was a lie detector test. Patrick McGuigan, anything in particular that stands out?
MR. McGUIGAN: I think the unfairness of the whole situation, not only to Judge Thomas but to some extent even to Prof. Hill. I think people are outraged by the process and the rebuttable presumption of innocence goes to Judge Thomas and that's why people are rallying to him. You know, it's not clear how much of the involvement in the leak is on the part of outside groups, how much of a part of it is Senate staff, the Senators, themselves. It is clear that we started down a path that led to this horrid process, this situation where things that traditionally have been handled behind the scenes, and if there's not enough credible evidence to go forward with a brand new investigation, they're put aside and you move on with the process. I think that would have been much better. In other words, I reluctantly agree that the way Biden tried to handle it was probably correct, although I still, to this day, am dismayed that something like this took from early September until I guess it was September 23rd before it could be presented to the Senators for the first time. That's an awfully long gap and it makes me suspect something was going on at the staff level to save this until the last minute and then break it.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Erwin Knoll, did you think -- you criticized this process from the beginning.
MR. KNOLL: Yes, I did.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Criticizing the Senators for how they handled the charges. Did they equip themselves better this weekend, in your estimation?
MR. KNOLL: Oh, no. I thought it was a terrible performance by everyone, Democrats, Republicans. The questioning was often insipid, stupid, sometimes offensive, usually repetitious. The whole exercise was appalling. Also, I don't understand, Charlayne, why we had to have this melodrama of weekend hearings. Why did the vote have to be set for tomorrow night? Why did we have to infuse into this already sorry spectacle this air of urgency and immediacy that made it a cheap shot even more than it already was?
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What about that, Gerry Warren? We heard in Jim's conversation most of the Senators said that this didn't really make that much difference in terms of their own attitudes about the nominee.
MR. WARREN: It made a great deal of difference in the nation. I think it was a tragedy that it had to happen, but I think it probably is a very good thing for the United States that it did happen. In the first place, it shows the Senate staffers who by Prof. Hill's own confused testimony said to her that if she said this in confidence it would probably get Clarence Thomas out of the nomination process, it shows then that they can't really do this with impunity anymore. Two, in those males in the United States who still harbor neanderthal thoughts about mistreatment of females they're going to know that that can't happen. And, three, females who work in government and in the work place will be reminded of what they should already have known, and I'm convinced Prof. Hill did know, that they have a recourse, that they should speak out immediately when this unspeakable thing happens to them.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Is that going to happen, Lee Cullum, or as we heard earlier, is this going to send a message, Anita Hill's treatment, going to send a message that women don't have a recourse?
MS. CULLUM: Anita Hill has been subjected to a Salem witch trial, in my opinion. I think that women will be very reluctant to come forward. I think she has shown enormous courage.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: All right. We've just got a few seconds left. Let me just whip around and ask each of you, starting with you, Lee Cullum, the President today said that the majority of Americans support the nomination. Danforth said he wasn't sure, the vote was a toss up. Do you think he's going to be confirmed?
MS. CULLUM: No, I do not.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: What about you, Ed Baumeister?
MR. BAUMEISTER: No, ma'am, I do not.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Clarence Page in Washington, what's your vote on it, or view of it?
MR. PAGE: It's an impossible situation for the Senators. If they vote for Clarence Thomas, it's like they're soft on sexual harassment. Vote against them and they're accused of racism. They've got to go with principle. And if Senators go with principle, it's unpredictable, but I'm going to guess he will be approved by maybe one vote.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Cynthia Tucker in Atlanta.
MS. TUCKER: I think he will probably slide by as well. Support for him I think in Georgia remains very strong, despite the Constitution's editorial position. I suspect that citizens are calling their Senators and I suspect he'll just squeak by.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: All right, Gerry Warren in San Diego, yes or no?
MR. WARREN: Yes, he'll be approved.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Erwin Knoll.
MR. KNOLL: I think he probably will be and it will be a tragedy.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Patrick McGuigan.
MR. McGUIGAN: I think he'll be confirmed. In fact, he may get the mid 50s, but it's a very close call with a number of the Senators.
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: All right. Well, thank you all for joining us. ESSAY - EXPLORER OR EXPLOITER?
MR. LEHRER: Finally tonight, some up to date thoughts about Columbus Day. Our essayist is Clarence Page at the Chicago Tribune, who as you just saw is also one of our regular regional editor contributors.
MR. PAGE: Poor Christopher Columbus. Just as the 500th anniversary of his arrival in the Americas approaches, it is no longer politically correct to celebrate it. Native American Indian groups have called for 1491 to be exalted instead of 1492 as the last good year before the Europeans invaded. In Arizona, a move to replace Columbus Day as a state holiday with Martin Luther King Day was attempted. And Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes, native American Indian author Louise Urgich and others have tried to retell the Columbus story from the victim's point of view. Poor Chris. Of course, it's not the first time Columbus Day has been the subject of controversy. After all, the Vikings quite possibly arrived several centuries before, even if they didn't stick around long. And Phoenician sailors, including Africans, might have arrived even sooner than that, judging by the distinctly African features on Mexican antiquities sculpted hundreds of years before Christ. And let's face it, the native people Columbus mistakenly called Indians are themselves walking, taking proof that Asians discovered the Americas a good 30,000 years before Columbus did. How, one might ask, could Columbus discover a place that already was someone else's home for 30,000 years? The academician Max Lerner once said that the lessons of history are by and large the rationalizations of the victors. If so, the history lessons most of us learned in school rationalized and glorified the victories of Europeans in America and all of the invasions, theft, and slavery that went with it. So today's Columbus controversy might be viewed simply as the vanquished finally trying to set the record straight, even if it shocks our national sense of self to be told that the great mariner was really a great instigator of genocidal imperialism. Was he really all that bad, we might reasonably ask, or was the man from Genoa, Italy, doing only that which makes all explorers and pioneers great, following his dream wherever it took him? Besides, if the noble conqueror is a myth, what about the noble savage? The Aztecs, for example, built great pyramids, but they also made human sacrifices. The reality of both conquerors and the conquered has been romanticized and mythologized out of existence. The real issue here isn't what happened 500 years ago; it's what's happening today, a battle for America's cultural heart and the vision we have for tomorrow. As Martin Luther King once said, we all may have come on different ships, or canoes, but we're in the same boat now. America is going through a great national change of mind about its past and its future. America's many ethnic groups demand new appreciation for their diversity. And the old European- based vision of America's past no longer seems as appropriate as it used to seem. Many are thinking, as George Orwell once wrote, that whoever controls our memory of the past controls the future. Whoever controls the present, controls our memory of the past. So perhaps Columbus can best be remembered as an imperfect but courageous explorer, an appropriate symbol for our restless, imperfect nation, still trying to perfect itself as it searches new frontiers, including some within its own sense of national identity. Our national melting pot is looking more like a Mulligan Stew these days, with each group clinging more rigorously than ever to its own identity, but still contributing ultimately to the flavor of the whole. It's a unique flavor that Americans have given to the world, a flavor that always is changing because somebody is always stirring up the pot. I'm Clarence Page. RECAP
MS. HUNTER-GAULT: Once again, the major story of this day was the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill confrontation. President Bush said support for Thomas was strong throughout the country. Two Democratic Senators who had previously announced support for Thomas said they wouldstill vote for him. And Anita Hill returned home to Norman, Oklahoma. She denied allegations that she had fantasized the sexual harassment charges. She said she was hurt and offended by attacks on her character, but it was worth it to tell the truth. Good night, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: Good night, Charlayne. We'll see you tomorrow night with full coverage of the final Senate vote on Clarence Thomas now scheduled for 6 PM Eastern Time tomorrow. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
- The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
- Producing Organization
- NewsHour Productions
- Contributing Organization
- NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This episode's headline: Taking Sides; Explorer or Exploiter. The guests include SEN. BENNETT JOHNSTON, [D] Louisiana; SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE, [R] Minnesota; SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, [R] Indiana; SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG, [D] New Jersey; CYNTHIA TUCKER, Atlanta Constitution; GERALD WARREN, San Diego Union; PATRICK McGUIGAN, Daily Oklahoman; ERWIN KNOLL, The Progressive; CLARENCE PAGE, Chicago Tribune; ED BAUMEISTER, Trenton [N.J.] Times; LEE CULLUM, Dallas Times Herald; CORRESPONDENT: JUDY WOODRUFF. Byline: In New York: JAMES LEHRER; In Washington: CHARLAYNE HUNTER- GAULT
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- Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode)
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- Moving Image
Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: NH-2123 (NH Show Code)
Format: 1 inch videotape
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- Chicago: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” 1991-10-14, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-sj19k46p18.
- MLA: “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” 1991-10-14. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-sj19k46p18>.
- APA: The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-sj19k46p18