Former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson served only three years in that role; she was reportedly fired in 2014 for an ill-founded complaint about her compensation and for her “brusque” workplace manner. Her editorial competence was not questioned, however. In the era of #MeToo equalizing the perpetrators of rape with those of inadvertent microaggressions, perhaps no one remains in elite New York media qualified to make such a judgment, anyway.
This week, Abramson’s reputation seemingly landed her a 4,000-word New York magazine cover story, which resurrects the sexual harassment complaints against Justice Clarence Thomas:
Feel free to question Abramson’s timing and her subjectivity. Indeed, Abramson admits she is targeting Thomas again solely because the timing is proper, and the target high-value. She writes:
Thomas, as a crucial vote on the Supreme Court, holds incredible power over women’s rights, workplace, reproductive, and otherwise. His worldview, with its consistent objectification of women, is the one that’s shaping the contours of what’s possible for women in America today, more than that of just about any man alive, save for his fellow justices.
His worldview, of course, is that life and rights begin at conception, and that equal protection necessarily frowns upon laws based on gender. Abramson equates these views with dehumanization of women, and thus sees him as a worthwhile target based on his current import during this elite-media-driven “cultural” moment. Folks, if you think there’s a time and a place to destroy a person, you are not in it for the alleged victims.
This distorted environment must be what gave Abramson the moxie to publish the following passage, perhaps her most underhanded jab in the New York cover story:
There are clear risks involved in speaking out against a Supreme Court justice. After [accuser] Kaye Savage spoke to Mayer and me for Strange Justice, David Brock, who was then a staunch defender of Thomas’s, tried to, in effect, blackmail her. He threatened to make public details from her messy divorce and child-custody case if she did not sign a statement recanting what she had said to us for the book.
Brock, who turned into a liberal Clinton supporter … told me in a recent interview that he got the personal information about Savage from Mark Paoletta, then a lawyer in the Bush White House (who had a recent stint as Vice-President Pence’s counsel) and a friend of Thomas.
Brock believes it’s all but certain that Paoletta got the information about Savage directly from Thomas. (Paoletta has denied Brock’s account.)
Let’s break that down:
— Abramson writes that then-sitting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gave damaging information about the personal life of a private citizen to a friend, who gave it to political operative David Brock. Brock then threatened that private citizen with the release of that information if she didn’t recant with a signed statement.
— There’s nothing “in effect” about it — that’s blackmail. And her source, who does not confirm his allegation (he “believes it’s all but certain”), is the blackmailer. By choosing to publish this allegation, Abramson inherently gives readers the impression that this uncorroborated claim from a seedy character is worth publishing.
— Further, Abramson chose not to disclose that she personally has several legitimate reasons to never publish an uncorroborated claim from Brock.
In the 1990s, Abramson herself had a decade-long blood feud with Brock that involved them writing two goddamn books ripping each other apart, plus her 8,000-word New Yorker response, and his 37,000-word book review. During this feud, Abramson was forced to apologize and correct a major claim in her book’s paperback version. Then Brock had a meltdown and called his book the work of “a liar and a fraud.” Then Abramson, on CNN, told Howard Kurtz that “once David Brock admits he knowingly wrote lies, it’s hard to figure out when to believe him, essentially … It’d be awfully convenient to now say, because what he’s writing is personally pleasing to me, that he’s a 100 percent solid reporter. That would be a little disingenuous. I still have quite a bit of contempt for the kind of journalism he practiced.” Later, Brock became the head of an organization that openly targeted his political enemies while his team met with Obama administration members and Clinton insiders, and Brock’s coworkers described him exhibiting “erratic” behavior and living in fear of “snipers.”
Also, this ten-year Abramson/Brock war was entirely about CLARENCE THOMAS.
— One more thing!
The allegation about Clarence Thomas, sourced to Brock, in Abramson’s hit piece this week is about Mark Paoletta. Paoletta is the very person whom Abramson was forced to apologize to and issue a correction for falsely smearing.
But besides that, the remainder of Abramson’s article is terrible.
Here’s her headline and subhead from the link; it differs from the cover headline:
That claim of “new evidence” is risible. Nothing Abramson mentions within the piece occurred more recently than 2016, except for the following incident, where Abramson seemingly boasts of utilizing Brockian journalistic ethics.
In late 2017, Abramson writes, she heard from one source who alleged that another source told her 30 years ago that Thomas had groped her. However, the alleged primary source, a woman named Nancy Montweiler, has categorically refused to comment on the incident since at least 1991. Abramson simply found out about this recently, and attempted to get Montweiler to comment on the phone. She refused.
Abramson then showed up at Montweiler’s house within the past month.
Montweiler, again, repeated that she simply would not answer any questions about Clarence Thomas.
Abramson had nothing to publish. An uncorroborated claim received from a second-hand source thirty years ago, and a primary source who refuses all comment, is not something you run …
Unless you really, really want the country to “talk seriously about impeachment”:
On a cold morning in early February, I knocked on the front door of Montwieler’s home in northwest Washington, D.C., where a wooden angel stands in the front yard. On the phone, when I summarized what Walker had told me, she said she didn’t want to talk about Thomas, but I hoped I could change her mind in person.
Now retired from journalism, Montwieler, a petite woman with cropped hair and tinted glasses, was polite. She wouldn’t answer any questions about Thomas, but she never denied Walker’s account. Nor did she request that I keep her name out of this story. She simply said, “I’ll read it with interest.” Another colleague of Montwieler’s … told me that her silence over the years isn’t surprising, given the value and cachet of knowing a powerful public official [Thomas] in Washington.
Montweiler’s 27-year refusal to answer any questions about Clarence Thomas was morphed by Abramson, a la Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber, into “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
And that’s the only “new evidence” within.
How Abramson is willing to connect any of this with the impeachment of Thomas is equally confounding. She claims that the accounts of several women were not used during Thomas’s confirmation hearings, and that their accounts show Thomas perjured himself:
[G]iven the evidence that’s come out in the years since, it’s also time to raise the possibility of impeachment … because of the lies he told, repeatedly and under oath, saying he had never talked to Hill about porn or to other women who worked with him about risqué subject matter.
There’s no equivocation there; Abramson is clearly stating that Thomas lied. For examples of those supposed impeachment-worthy lies, Abramson writes:
Thomas flat-out denied, under oath, repeatedly, that these conversations ever took place in his office with [Anita] Hill or any other of his employees. “What I have said to you is categorical that any allegations that I engaged in any conduct involving sexual activity, pornographic movies, attempted to date her, any allegations, I deny. It is not true,” he said during questioning, along with specific denials like these:
Senator Hatch: Did you ever say in words or substance something like there is a pubic hair in my Coke?
Judge Thomas: No, Senator. …
Senator Hatch: Did you ever brag to Professor Hill about your sexual prowess?
Judge Thomas: No, Senator.
Senator Hatch: Did you ever use the term “Long Dong Silver” in conversation with Professor Hill?
Judge Thomas: No, Senator.
And: “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, there would be other individuals who heard it, or bits and pieces of it, or various levels of it,” Thomas said, as if daring the Senate committee to investigate further.
His bluff wasn’t called. Many individuals we uncovered who knew about Thomas’s habitual, erotically charged talk in the workplace were never contacted by the Senate Judiciary Committee or called as witnesses. We found three other women who had experiences with Thomas at the EEOC that were similar to Hill’s, and four people who knew about his keen interest in porn but were never heard from publicly. The evidence that Thomas had perjured himself during the hearing was overwhelming.
Overwhelming evidence, however, simply is not present in Abramson’s article.
For example, Abramson opens with a 2016 claim made by attorney Moira Smith on her Facebook account. Smith claimed that Thomas had groped her at a small group dinner in 1999, and that she had kept quiet for 17 years. She was only coming forward now, wrote Smith, because the Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump had just been released, and it infuriated her.
The timing was certainly questionable, just as Abramson’s timing is now. Thomas denied Smith’s account. Abramson adds that “[Smith] isn’t doing any further interviews about Thomas.” Indeed, Abramson admits later in the article that Smith has since taken down her Facebook profile, allegedly “worried about right-wing trolls” after a former Thomas clerk published an attack on her claims. Yet somehow, Abramson declares Moira Smith’s Facebook account to be “[m]ost important to any new #MeToo reckoning of the Thomas case.”
Abramson also mentions the 2010 claims of Lillian McEwen. McEwen had dated Thomas for years during the 1980s. In 2010, McEwen suddenly claimed that Thomas, back when they dated, would tell her “about women he encountered at work and what he’d said to them.”
Yes — the allegation is that Thomas would often come home from work and tell the woman he was dating about all the rude comments he’d told other women at the office. And that McEwen apparently stuck around.
If you find that claim requires suspension of disbelief, note that the claim just happens to be the exact evidence that could get people talking about a possible perjury investigation regarding those specific answers to Orrin Hatch. Also note that McEwen suddenly broke her silence in 2010. McEwen, as Abramson writes, claimed she was inspired to come forward that year after hearing that Ginni Thomas, Clarence’s wife, had recently left a message on Anita Hill’s voicemail asking for a belated apology.
However, Abramson then damaged McEwen’s claim of motivation by noting McEwen, in 2010, happened to be “writing a bodice-ripping memoir, D.C. Unmasked and Undressed.” Worse — if one scrolls back up Abramson’s article a few paragraphs — Abramson had already obliterated McEwen’s claim by mentioning a second 2010 coincidence that needs to be read to believed:
To my surprise, the notion of impeaching Thomas resurfaced during the 2016 campaign. In the thousands of emails made public during the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton, there was one curious document from her State Department files that caught my attention, though it went largely unremarked upon in the press.
Labeled “Memo on Impeaching Clarence Thomas” and written by a close adviser, the former right-wing operative David Brock, in 2010, the seven-page document lays out the considerable evidence, including material from our book, that Thomas lied to the Judiciary Committee when he categorically denied that he had discussed pornographic films or made sexual comments in the office to Hill or any other women who worked for him.
To recap: After 30 years of silence, an ex of Clarence Thomas suddenly came forward with a bizarre claim about Thomas’s behavior. Her claim happened to be the perfect refutation of specific answers Thomas gave under oath in 1991 — specific answers which Abramson just happened to excerpt in this piece demanding America “talk seriously about [Thomas’s] impeachment” for perjury. That ex happened to come forward after 30 years just as David Brock, the only man in D.C. who makes Sid Blumenthal feel like he needs a shower, had composed a secret “Memo on Impeaching Clarence Thomas.” And Brock happened to have composed that memo for the only woman in D.C. who makes Sid Blumenthal feel like he needs a shower.
Hopefully, none of this strikes anyone as unfamiliar anymore.
We have a cover story that demands attention for claims that don’t warrant publication, and we have a carefully jumbled narrative that hides its own refutation to push the precise opposite claim. Abramson’s demand for serious “talk” and further investigation attempts to cloak the obvious: she was unable to uncover anything worth such a talk, her own investigation being a failure.
She kicked up dirt to give the impression of scandal, which would not have been necessary had she actually uncovered proof of one. Meanwhile, she unintentionally presented stronger evidence of her sham than of the scandal she hoped to create.
If all this backfiring “collusion” sounds familiar, you’re not alone.