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HBO Film Revives Clash Over Clarence Thomas

Former GOP staffer launches website to counter favorable portrayal of Anita Hill

Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas testifies during his hearing before Senate Judiciary in October 1991 (CQ Roll Call)
Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas testifies during his hearing before Senate Judiciary in October 1991 (CQ Roll Call)

HBO’s new dramatization of Clarence Thomas’ 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings has spilled over into a real-life fight over the facts of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment accusations against him.  

Ahead of Saturday night’s premiere of the controversial “Confirmation ,” a former President George H.W. Bush staffer has launched , a graphics-intensive site to counter what’s in the film.  

Mark Paoletta, a Washington lawyer who was an assistant counsel to Bush during the confirmation hearings, said he read a copy of the script and found it to be “very slanted” to make Hill seem more credible that she was by leaving out troubling aspects of the testimony.  

“I can talk to people about it until I’m blue in the face, but I thought, let me put up a website,” Paoletta said.  

Paoletta plans to keep expanding the site, and expects further interest beyond the film ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Thomas confirmation hearings. While it’s just a movie, Paoletta says the left has been trying to rewrite what happened.  

“I think it’s my first step in starting to address the false narrative that’s starting to be out there,” Paoletta said. “There are very, very few people who know the story and lived through the story more than me.”  

Paoletta spent some time digging. For example, on the website, he posted a transcript of an interview with Hill’s friend Susan Hoerchner, “whom Hill allegedly told about Clarence Thomas’ inappropriate conduct at the time it occurred,” the site states.  

The committee had sealed the transcript, but Paoletta found a copy in a collection of records of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and said he drove down to Clemson University to obtain it.  

“Then, on page 23, Anita Hill’s lawyer (Janet Napolitano) asks for a break in the interview to confer privately with Hoerchner. Only after that conference did Hoerchner change her story,” Paoletta’s website states. “When Republican counsel raised concerns about allowing Hill’s attorney to privately meet with Hoerchner, Democratic counsel tried to mischaracterize what happened.”  

The movie doesn’t say whether Hill (played by Kerry Washington of ABC’s “Scandal” fame) or Thomas (Wendell Pierce) was lying about the accusations, according to a review from The Salt Lake Tribune .  

No lawmakers — Republican or Democrat — are portrayed heroically in the film, the review states.  

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