Watch how senators grilled Anita Hill in 1991

In 1991, Anita Hill alleged then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Here's how a committee of all men questioned her.

Posted: Sep 20, 2018 3:40 AM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 4:03 AM

As Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers insist the FBI investigate her allegation of sexual and physical assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, here is a look back at how the FBI's investigation into Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas came about.

July 1, 1991: President George H.W. Bush nominated then-federal appeals court Judge Thomas to succeed Justice Thurgood Marshall.

September 3, 1991: Hill was first approached by the Judiciary Committee and was invited to provide background information on Thomas because she had worked with him, according to a New York Times article the following month, which cites a written statement from Hill that was sent to news organizations. (That statement adds that Hill decided to submit an affidavit after "numerous discussions" with the panel's staff, the Times reported.)

September 10, 1991: Thomas' initial hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee began.

September 12, 1991: According to then-Sen. Joe Biden, head of the Judiciary Committee, Hill first told the committee of the allegations on this day, as reported in the Times. Biden said she insisted her name not be used and Thomas not be told of the accusations, effectively tying the committee's hands.

September 20, 1991: After Hill spoke with the committee about her allegations "an FBI investigation was suggested" to her, according to comments she made at a news conference early the next month, published in the Times. "I spoke with the Judiciary Committee about it early in September, and through a number of discussions, it was not until the 20th of September that an F.B.I. investigation was suggested to me," Hill said. She later added, "There was a further breakdown even after that, what information would be shared. So there are a number of different points at which the communication broke down, understandings were not carried through."

Hill's comments in the news conference criticized the Judiciary Committee's handling of her complaint, saying she had tried for nearly two weeks in September to put a confidential account of her allegations before the 14 male members of the committee, the Times reported. The Times notes that Hill's account of what happened that September "differed markedly from the accounts offered" by the White House and Biden, "who said Ms. Hill's demand that her statements be kept confidential had impeded the committee."

September 23, 1991: Biden says in a statement reported in the Times that this is the date on which Hill agreed to allow the FBI to investigate the allegations.

Then-White House deputy press secretary Judy Smith said in a statement published by Newsday on October 6, 1991, that Hill's allegations of harassment were "brought to the attention of the Judiciary Committee" on September 23 -- a time frame that differs from Hill's account -- and the committee "immediately" informed the White House. The White House then "promptly directed the FBI to conduct a full, thorough and expeditious investigation," according to the statement.

September 26, 1991: Three days later, the FBI completed its investigation, and a report was submitted to the White House and the Judiciary Committee, according to Smith's statement. "The White House reviewed the report and determined that the allegation was unfounded," the statement said.

September 27, 1991: The committee deadlocked 7-7 on whether to recommend the Senate confirm Thomas' nomination. The panel then voted 13-1 to send his nomination to the Senate floor without a recommendation.

October 6, 1991: National Public Radio's Nina Totenberg obtained a copy of the FBI report and reported on the allegations, the first time the public became aware of the story.

October 11, 1991: Hill testifies that Thomas had sexually harassed her while she worked with him at the Education Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hill said Thomas frequently asked her out on dates and described his sexual interests to her. Thomas denies the allegations.

October 15, 1991: The Senate confirms Thomas in a 52-48 vote, the narrowest margin in the 20th century.

October 23, 1991: Thomas is sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

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