Democrats, from the White House down, screamed for New York Representative Anthony Weiner to resign, and he finally did. But it’s not a Democrat who’s breathing the biggest sigh of relief at Weiner’s downfall. It’s Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
There was much talk a year ago that Weiner would be the point man on the House Judiciary Committee if it decided to go after Thomas for his long trail of financial manipulations, abuse, and duplicity. Weiner gave signs that he’d be the go-to guy against Thomas. He had been publicly hammering Thomas’ dealings and demanding that he recuse himself from any High Court deliberations on the constitutionality of the health care reform law that conservatives loathe.
Weiner certainly had a lot of ammunition to make Thomas’ misdeeds a prima facie legal and political embarrassment for the GOP. Thomas’ wife Ginni had earned money from assorted right-wing foundations and think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, the Coors family and Richard Mellon Scaife, all of whom had a major interest in a number of Supreme Court rulings. While Thomas disclosed her earnings, he did not disclose the speaking fees and perks he got from the same conservative groups that his wife worked for. He refused to acknowledge her involvement with Liberty Central, for example.
Then there was the strong hint that Thomas perjured himself in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his court confirmation hearings in 1991, which he compounded by lying under oath to Congress during the hearings. A public official—whether the president, presidential appointees, or judges—can be punished for giving false information of any nature to Congress.
Utah Sen. Orin Hatch, during the confirmation hearings, asked Thomas directly about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct and whether he had used sexually suggestive language.
Thomas answered, “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.”
Thomas was emphatic. He stated under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee, “If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it.” Even then witnesses, who were not called to testify, were contradicting Thomas’ sworn testimony in public statements.
Two decades later, Thomas’ testimony to Congress was back on the legal table when another intimate of his confirmed that Thomas had engaged in sexual harassment, was addicted to pornography, and talked incessantly and graphically about it.
Close scrutiny by House Democrats of Thomas’ possible wrongdoing was taken off the table when the Republicans took back control of the House last November. Thomas’ financial misdeeds and dubious confirmation hearing testimony quickly disappeared from the news. But with the 2012 elections nearing and the possibility that the Democrats could either win back control of the House or substantially boost their numbers there, Thomas’ financial double-dealing and shadowy political ties could easily have been back on the political table.
Weiner showed intense interest in Thomas’ activities, publicly hectoring Thomas during the health care debate about his financial dealings. It was a signal that Thomas at some point could be fair game for an investigation. That would have done much to further expose financial, legal and moral high jinks by conservatives that the GOP routinely sweeps under the rug.
Thomas and the GOP don’t have to worry about that now. Thomas’ potential tormentor is out of the House, and Democrats seem content to put the matter behind them. Thomas can now safely breathe a big sigh of relief.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson. This originally appeared on New America Media.