If you paid any attention to the news this week, you know that our country is on course to witness one of the most contentious and combative Supreme Court nomination hearings in American political history. The current record holder is the 1991 confirmation hearings of former-President George H. W. Bush’s nominee, current-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas’ lengthy confirmation hearings pitted race versus gender, the legislature versus the judicial branch, and the media versus the personal lives of then-Judge Thomas and his former coworker Anita Hill.
Long before Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden and surprising death, HBO announced it would air an in-depth drama called “Confirmation”. The film follows the stories of Judge Clarence Thomas (played by “The Wire’s” Wendell Price) and his former-coworker Anita Hill (played by “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington). Hill worked for Thomas during his time at the Department of Education and as the Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. During Thomas’ confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Anita Hill, now a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, came forward accusing Judge Thomas of making numerous sexually provocative statements and unwanted, graphic sexual advances. The 24/7 news cycle was quickly enthralled with the scandal. Millions of Americans saw 30 hours of testimony that fateful weekend in mid-October 1991.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden (played by “Little Miss Sunshine’s” Greg Kinnear), mercilessly questioned both Anita Hill and Judge Clarence Thomas. Hill, an African-American woman, was subjected to testifying in an excruciatingly graphic manner. The Committee was made up entirely of white men. Clarence Thomas, only the second black Supreme Court nominee, chalked the partisan hearings to being purely racial testifying that, “From my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.” This confirmation hearing has gone down in history as one of the Senate’s low points.
The nation was absolutely captivated by the scandal for weeks. The timeline, the characters, and the implications towards gender and race equality made this story ripe for movie magic. When HBO announced the movie in March of 2015, we never could have imagined that just a year later we’d be traveling full-steam ahead towards much of the same process being repeated. This movie surely will shed light on the human toll of the political machine. If you have any interest in gender or race equality, the judicial system or the court of public opinion, be sure to check out the star studded film “Confirmation” on HBO April 11.
There is also a great documentary featuring Anita Hill herself now playing on Netflix. I highly suggest you check out “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” to relive those few fateful days in October 1991 before “Confirmation” is released.