Face it, judge, Anita Hill passed the test
Originally published Oct. 14, 1991
It has been said over and over and over again that one of them is lying. It’s a standoff. So whom are we to believe? It’s her word against his word, so how can there be a tiebreaker?
Everyone is free to weigh all of the evidence and make up their own minds. Or simply to follow their political biases and sexual hang-ups, as most people are doing.
But Professor Anita Hill settled the question for me on Sunday when she took and apparently passed a lie detector test.
The polygraph test was administered by what has been described as a highly reputable and independent Washington-area security firm that reportedly has trained FBI polygraph operators.
And Professor Hill is said to have answered a series of yes-no questions that show that she has been telling the truth. The president of the security firm said: “It’s thereafter my opinion Ms. Hill is truthful.”
Only minutes after the test results were announced, there were angry cries from supporters of Judge Clarence Thomas that Professor Hill was grandstanding and engaging in dirty tricks and foul play.
Naturally, they would say that. Some of them have been implying that Professor Hill is some sort of “Fatal Attraction” psycho, a spurned female seeking revenge. Or that she is in cahoots with various anti-Thomas groups.
After hearing herself described as possibly being a kook, a fantasizer, a viper and a liar, she apparently decided to shove their words down their throats.
And by taking and passing a lie detector test, she did exactly that.
Yes, polygraph results are not admissible in most courts of law. But judges have used them to screen witnesses; government uses them; law enforcement agencies use them. And so does private industry.
Now Anita Hill has used the test to give her credibility a big edge over Judge Thomas and to get the old stomach acids churning in his supporters.
She now has the clear edge. She has taken and passed a lie detector test, and he hasn’t. All he has is his capacity for righteous indignation, which is considerable. He has turned questions of sexual harassment and lying into a racial “lynching.” He has described himself as having been “killed.” He’s portrayed the affair as a dark day for truth, justice and the American way.
No, the hearings aren’t a lynching. And the Senate hearings aren’t going to cause earthquakes, volcanic explosions and the collapse of our society. The hearings are a valid effort to find out what kind of guy is a rollcall vote away from going on the U.S. Supreme Court for life. The process might be an unpleasant spectacle. It might be painful, embarrassing, and at times nasty, but as Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
If Judge Thomas is willing to lie under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee about what he said or didn’t say to Professor Hill, we ought to know about it. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t qualified to be on the Supreme Court. I’m sure many people, especially middle-aged men, might say that smutty remarks to a female employee are no big deal, and what’s a fellow supposed to do — admit it all?
On the other hand, if he sat there and lied about what he did or didn’t say to Professor Hill, leading many people to conclude that she is deranged or the agent of shadowy but powerful political forces, is there anything wrong with the public knowing that he lied? They still might want him on the Supreme Court. But at least they will know what they’re getting. Sort of truth in political packaging, which we seldom see.
So we have the results of a lie detector test. Now what?
Well, I’m sure the Senate Judiciary Committee will try to ignore it. They’ll pretend it doesn’t exist, unless some senator is bold enough to say: “Hey, let’s cut the bunk; this is reality.”
And the White House will scoff and say that a lie
detector test has no place in the process.
But it’s there. It happened. And by now, everyone who has been following the hearings knows that it’s there. If the White House and the Senate want to play make-believe and say it’s unimportant, that’s OK. I’m not sure what else they can say when a softspoken law professor flings their nastiness back in their faces.
So until Judge Thomas wants to take the same kind of test, which he won’t, since he can say it is beneath his dignity, a tennis term can be used to describe the score: Advantage, Hill.
From “The Best of Royko: The Tribune Years,” a collection of his later work. By the time Royko died in 1997, he had written nearly 8,000 columns — half of them for the Tribune — and had become a part of the daily fabric of Chicago life. For details about the new book edited by his son David Royko, visit the Tribune store.
Anita Hill takes the oath before her 1991 testimony on Judge Clarence Thomas.