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Sexual Harassment Claim on Thomas Surfaces : Supreme Court: Law professor told FBI last month of her problems at EEOC. White House calls allegation 'unfounded.'

October 06, 1991|From Newsday

WASHINGTON — A University of Oklahoma law professor told the FBI last month that she was sexually harassed by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas while working for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The White House said Saturday night that it had ordered a "full, thorough and expeditious" investigation of the allegation by the FBI on Sept 23. After reviewing the FBI's report, the White House "determined that the allegation was unfounded" said Deputy Press Secretary Judy Smith.

President Bush "continues to believe that Judge Thomas is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court and expects him to be confirmed promptly," the White House statement said.

But Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who opposes the nomination, called Saturday for postponement of the Senate vote scheduled for Tuesday.

The professor, Anita F. Hill, told the FBI that Thomas repeatedly discussed sexual matters with her in a suggestive way while she worked for the job discrimination monitoring agency, according to a source who has seen her statement to the FBI. Thomas was separated from his first wife at the time.

Hill confirmed Saturday that she had told agents she was harassed by Thomas, but declined to discuss the details with Newsday.

"He made suggestions to her about what kind of sex she engaged in, asking her in great detail about different forms of sex," the source said.

Thomas repeatedly asked Hill to go out with him, making it clear that he was interested in more than simply dating, the source said.

While Thomas implicitly pressured Hill to have sex with him, he never told her explicitly that she would lose her job if she did not, the source said.

Hill said Saturday that the harassment began when she first worked for Thomas at the Department of Education in 1981. It stopped for a while, but began again when she went to work for him at the EEOC, she said.

Thomas could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Simon, reached Saturday night at a college reunion in Nebraska, said: "I think it is a serious enough charge that the committee ought to look at it and if necessary the vote ought to be postponed," he said.

Simon said he and most other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were not aware of the allegations when they voted on the nomination, although he has since read the FBI report.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said Saturday that all committee members did know of the woman's allegation before the vote.

Hill did not file a formal complaint at the time but confided in a friend. The FBI has interviewed the unidentified friend, who corroborated that Hill had confided in her, the source said.

Hill said Saturday night that she had not filed a complaint because she was afraid of retribution.

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