One of the women who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings says she is "not surprised" by new groping allegations against him.
Angela Wright Shannon, who worked with Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the mid 1980s, never testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee as Anita Hill was, though some have suggested history may have changed if she had.
Twenty-five years after the hearings, another accuser came forward on Thursday, telling the National Law Journal that the conservative jurist repeatedly grabbed her behind at a 1999 dinner party.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Shannon, 61, told the Daily News of the allegations, though she made clear that Thomas had never harassed her physically.
“I’ve heard the inappropriate things come out of his mouth, but I’ve never seen him lift his hand inappropriately to me or any other women … If you say certain things then you may act on them,” she said by phone from Charlotte, N.C.
The new allegations come from Moira Smith, an Alaska energy company lawyer and former Truman Scholar who was 23 during a 1999 dinner in Virginia that Thomas attended.
Thomas has denied all the allegations against him, and calling a recent groping accusation ‘preposterous."
“He was 5 or 6 inches down and he got a good handful and he kept squeezing me and pulling me close to him,” she told the Law Journal after first sharing the accusations on Facebook earlier this month.
Multiple people who knew Smith at the time said that she recounted the experience to them, and the lawyer said that she is coming forward now after the flippant and dismissive way that women’s assault claims against Donald Trump have been treated.
Thomas, through a Supreme Court spokesman said, “This claim is preposterous and it never happened.”
Anita Hill, whose in 1991 testified about Thomas’s alleged harassment before he was confirmed by the Senate 52-48, told the Law Journal that there should be an investigation into Smith’s claims.
“To say that something like this is coming for political gains—and of course that was an allegation that was directed at me—is undermined by the fact that 16 years before, she went to friends and told people,” said Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University.
Angela Denise Wright Shannon, accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings.
The Supreme Court press office did not immediately respond to request for comment about Hill’s call for an investigation or Shannon’s support for Smith’s coming forward.
Shannon praised Smith telling her account and cast doubt on whether she could have anything to gain other than making her experience known.
“She said her truth. And we live in a society where women are still not protected as they should be. And what she’s done is brave and she needs to take comfort in that,” she said.
Though she was not called to give testimony about comments Thomas made including asking her about her breast size, Shannon said that after the ordeal she was stalked in the grocery store and followed home from work by a stranger.
“I have a box of memorabilia that I collected back then and I continue to keep I have some of the nastiest letters you could ever imagine,” she said.
Anita Hill, who testified at Thomas’s confirmation hearings (pictured), said that the new claim should be investigated.
Shannon, then known as Angela Wright, was working for the Charlotte Observer in 1991 when she was subpoenaed to Washington after starting work on a column about her accusations.
She thinks that she was not called because the Judiciary Committee, chaired by then Sen. Joe Biden, was set on confirming Thomas.
The future justice denied the allegations against him by Hill, calling the proceedings a “circus” and a “high-tech lynching.”
Shannon, who noted that after the 1991 hearings a record number of women were elected to Congress, now works for the Op-Ed Project, designed to train women to become “thought leaders” in their fields.
She says that one frustrating part of the new allegations is accused men can simply deny any claims, but that women need to bring a “litany of witnesses” to be believed about behavior that happens with regularity.
“There are tens of thousands of women who could make that same post about someone they considered to be a friend about a college professor, about a neighbor, about a relative. This is not something that is new, and it really shouldn’t be that shocking,” she said.