How Long Were Clarence Thomas' Confirmation Hearings? The HBO Film Version Only Highlights The Anita Hill Testimony
Anita Hill, the woman who alleged and testified that Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her when they worked together, is back in the spotlight thanks to a new HBO film, Confirmation. The film, starring Kerry Washington as Hill and Wendell Pierce as Thomas, covers Hill's dramatic and controversial 1991 testimony during Thomas' confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court. While many people might remember Hill's testimony like it was yesterday, the movie will likely introduce the historic event to a brand new generation, specifically thanks to Washington's Scandal fame. And that's a good thing. There's a lot we can learn from Hill's story, and Thomas' confirmation hearings. But considering that the film only focuses on Hill's contribution to Thomas' hearings, it may seem a bit unclear about how long Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings actually went on for.
Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court by George H.W. Bush on July 1, 1991, but his confirmation hearings in front of the US Senate Judiciary Committee didn't begin until September 10, 1991. His nomination was opposed by Jesse Jackson and the NAACP, and he was reportedly considered unqualified by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee for the Federal Judiciary. It wasn't until one month into the confirmation hearings, on Oct. 11, 1991, that Hill appeared in Washington D.C. to testify regarding her allegations of sexual harassment by Thomas.
Hill testified for about eight hours in front of an all-white male committee led by now-Vice President, then-Senator Joe Biden, all of which was televised nation-wide. In her testimony, the law professor alleged that Thomas would frequently make inappropriate comments and unwanted advances during their time at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where Thomas had been her supervisor. Thomas adamantly denied any such behavior in the few days of testimony that followed, and finally declared that he would not answer any more questions, calling the hearings "a high-tech lynching." He was confirmed to the Supreme Court a few days later on Oct. 15 by a narrow margin of 52 to 48.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the 107 days between Thomas' initial nomination and final confirmation makes his confirmation one of the longest in the modern Supreme Court, though his month-long hearing seems pretty standard. However, many critics still believe that Thomas' hearings weren't long enough.
The hearings might have been short, but they were impactful. Many credit the Hill testimony with inspiring a national discussion on the nature of sexual harassment in the workplace, and if Confirmation is any indication, the hearings will continue to impact future debates on gender inequalities in the workplace.