The Attempted Revenge-By-Proxy Of Anita Hill

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 2, 2009

seinfeldSomeone named Nell Scovell has opined that as an act of vengeance–for this is the only reasonable interpretation of the proposed act–President Obama nominate Anita Hill to the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Souter.

Yes. That Anita Hill. Evidently, the objective is to “Make Clarence Thomas’s Worst Nightmare Come True.” Because that’s what Presidents are supposed to consider Priority Number One in their Supreme Court appointments; elevating a candidate who will make conversation awkward when the Justices deliberate with one another. Never mind that those who have attempted to make the case that Anita Hill was genuinely wronged by Clarence Thomas have generally fared badly, with accusation based on the lightest of inferences being the best that they can do. None of this matters to Nell Scovell, whose interest in wreaking havoc when it comes to interpersonal relationships between Justices on the Supreme Court outweighs any commensurate interest in, you know, accuracy. But it ought to matter to the rest of us.

There is no effort to try to convince the reader that Anita Hill would actually be a good Justice. The entire article is just distilled nastiness directed at Justice Thomas’s way, without any substance to it whatsoever. And it was factually incorrect in many ways as well. Behold the following comment to the article, which was written when the article initially identified Arlen Specter as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Thomas hearings:

The person who referred to the author of this article as an amazing idiot” spoke truly. Same for the editor: Arlen Specter was never Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, certainly not back in 1991 when the Senate was 55-45 Democratically controlled (and Specter was still a Republican). He wasn’t even close to being ranking Republican, being behind Sens. Thurmond, Hatch, Simpson, and Grassley in seniority. He was one of the most junior members of the Committee. Nor did Anita Hill appear as a witness in Justice Thomas’s confirmation hearings as this article claims. The confirmation hearings were over and Thomas’s appointment had been reported to the full US Senate when she made her first allegations (one of the suspiciously uncomfortable facts she was never able to explain away). Instead, the full Senate ordered the Judiciary Committee to convene a special hearing into the allegations of Prof. Hill. That hearing had nothing to do with the Judiciary Committee’s vote (already taken) on confirmation, nor did it concern sexual harassment – every Senator and every witness was against sexual harassment – it only concerned who was telling the truth. And Sen. Specter’s questions were certainly relevant and material to that point. Finally, Sen. Specter is NOT still the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee as this article claims. Hire an editor Vanity Fair! Or an author who is not an idiot and needs so much correcting!

The article no longer identifies Specter as having been the Chairman during the Thomas hearings. It also does not mention that Nell Scovell made an error, and that the article was edited to correct the errors for which she rightfully gets skewered in the first place. Journalistic malpractice? You bet, but you could say that for the entire article, quite frankly, and not just the blatant errors that had to be corrected by a doubtless embarrassed Vanity Fair editorial staff.

Discussing this article via e-mail with my New Ledger colleagues, we searched for the appropriate classification for Nell Scovell’s temper tantrum. Dan McLaughlin–as he always does–came through and reminded us that Scovell appears to have watched too much Seinfeld, and now, is trying to hard to imitate Jerry in one of his less-than-classy moments:

Jerry: “Excuse me I’d like to return this jacket.”

Teller: “Certainly. May I ask why?”

Jerry: “……..For spite…”

Teller: “Spite?”

Jerry: “That’s right. I don’t care for the salesman that sold it to me.”

Teller: “I don’t think you can return an item for spite.”

Jerry: “What do you mean?”

Teller: “Well if there was some problem with the garment. If it were unsatisfactory in some way,then we could do it for you, but I’m afraid spite doesn’t fit into any of our conditions for a refund”

Jerry: “That’s ridiculous, I want to return it. What’s the difference what the reason is.”

Teller: “Let me speak with the manager…excuse me ………….Bob!”

(walks over to the manager and whispers)

Teller “……..spite…..”(Manager walks over)

Bob: “What seems to be the problem?”

Jerry : “Well I want to return this jacket and she asked me why and I said for spite and now she won’t take it back.”

Bob: “That’s true. You can’t return an item based purely on spite.”

Jerry:. “Well So fine then ..then I don’t want it and then that’s why I’m returning it”

Bob: “Well you already said spite so……”

Jerry: “But I changed my mind..”

Bob: “No…you said spite…Too late.”

And people wonder why some print publications appear to be in trouble.

UPDATE: On one point, the commenter to Scovell’s article was in error–Arlen Specter was indeed Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2007-2009, so saying that “Arlen Specter was never Chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” was wrong.

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