Late last month, I joined other women leaders in the conservative movement in penning a letter to the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace – the panel seeking ways to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry – calling on the commission to replace Anita Hill as chair, due to her past remarks about women who accused former President Bill Clinton of misconduct.
In response to our letter, the commission defended Hill’s appointment. A spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that the panel was "aware” of our letter and the “concerns" within, and argued Hill "has made a career fighting for equitable workplace environments, and she is the best person to lead this much-needed effort."
But time’s up for Time’s Up. As brave women come forward to share their stories of the sexual assaults and harassment they have lived through in Hollywood, a commission purportedly seeking to confront the problem selected as its leader a woman who has a track record of attacking women who accused a powerful man of assault. Hill should have no role on the commission and should be replaced by someone who will stand by all victims of assault, even ones who accuse a liberal man.
What exactly has Hill said about Clinton’s accusers? Well, in 1998, Hill argued that claims against Clinton made by Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones did not constitute harassment.
Willey, a former Democratic activist and volunteer in the Clinton White House, said that in 1993, the president groped her and placed her hand on his genitals while they met in the Oval Office’s private study where she had asked him for a full-time paying job.
During a March 1998 interview on “Good Morning America,” Hill said Willey’s claim was not sexual harassment.
“But I can say that as a general matter, it is often true that later behavior is inconsistent with having been sexually harassed, or even, in this case, there’s no allegations of sexual harassment, but maybe sex – having encountered sexual misconduct,” Hill said at the time.
She echoed the sentiment in remarks to the Associated Press a few days later, arguing Willey was not sexually harassed by the president because she didn’t suffer on the job.
“We aren’t talking about sexual harassment, at least based on the facts that we have in front of us,” Hill said.
Contrary to Hill’s stated position, it seems to me that a woman being groped by a man she had just asked to hire her sounds like harassment.
But it gets worse. Willey wasn’t the only Clinton accuser whose account Hill saw fit to dismiss.
Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, alleged that in 1991, after being told then-Governor Clinton wanted to meet with her, Clinton propositioned her and exposed himself to her in a hotel room. In remarks to “Meet the Press” in 1998, Hill acknowledged that “certainly the allegations, even if we assume they are true show a level of misconduct,” but argued the incident wasn’t sexual harassment.
“So, no, if you just look at what’s out there so far, I have a hard time finding any adverse ramifications for her, in terms of her employment based on the alleged incident in the hotel room,” Hill said.
Personally, I can think of several “adverse ramifications” that might stem from such an encounter.
How can women facing sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood trust that someone who brushes off the accounts of other victims will truly stand for them? How can a victim seeking to confront a powerful man about misconduct trust someone who has a history of attacking accusers of a powerful man?
Efforts to combat abuse in the entertainment industry – and every industry – should be applauded. But the commission’s work would certainly be more effective if it were led by someone who advocates for all victims – even victims of a man whose politics she likes.
Jenny Beth Martin is chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.