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Anita Hill: “There is no way to redo 1991, but there are ways to do better”

Hill offers senators advice on Kavanaugh allegations. So far, they’re doing the opposite.

Law Professor Anita Hill Addresses Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Anita Hill has some advice for US senators investigating the sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh: Don’t rush through an investigation.

“There is no way to redo 1991, but there are ways to do better,” Hill wrote in a Tuesday op-ed for the New York Times, referencing her own high-profile testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On Monday, Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will sit before the same committee and give sworn testimony on Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denies the incident ever happened.

This has drawn comparisons to Hill’s 1991 testimony against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, saying that Thomas sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas denied the accusation and was confirmed.

“In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court,” Hill wrote in her op-ed. “It failed on both counts.”

Hill’s testimony against Thomas was explosive, and gripped the country. But stories like hers are being shared much more openly in the months since the #MeToo movement started last summer. The past year has seen a rise in the number of women going public with their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted by men, and a national conversation about sexual misconduct has followed.

In this era, Hill writes, she hopes senators will make a good-faith effort to examine Ford’s claims of assault against Kavanaugh and take the time to conduct a thorough investigation. Such an investigation, she says, should be conducted by an impartial body, so as not to be clouded by partisanship.

“Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee,” she wrote.

Right now, it appears that the Monday public hearing featuring Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimony will be the main part of the Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Kavanaugh’s conduct. So far, committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has said the two will be the only witnesses. A committee vote on Kavanaugh has not yet been scheduled.

In Hill’s op-ed, she urges senators to take their time to thoroughly check the allegations.

“Do not rush these hearings,” she wrote. “Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate.”