Clarence Thomas’ Ex Expounds on Steamy Memoir Vindicating Anita Hill
Retired Justice Lillian McEwen was born, raised and educated in Washington, D.C. Her stellar legal career there spanned several decades, including stints as a prosecutor, Capitol Hill staff counsel, criminal defense attorney, law professor and federal judge. Judge McEwen recently published her memoir, “D.C. Unmasked & Undressed,” a steamy tell-all chronicling her sexually-adventurous private life, paying particular attention to her longtime relationship with a prominent colleague, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
In the process, McEwen belatedly resurrects the reputation of Anita Hill by offering proof that the disgraced law professor was telling the truth 20 years ago when she testified against Thomas during his controversial confirmation hearings.
Kam Williams: Hello, Your Honor, thanks for the interview. How are you?
Lillian McEwen: Hi Kam. I’m good.
Lillian McEwen: [Chuckles] My PR guy loved it, and we both thank you.
Lillian McEwen: I was counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Joe Biden, so I knew pretty much what the process was. What happens when people make offers to testify, the committee’s role is to advise and consent as part of its Constitutional mandate. Typically, these letters are anonymous, and they’re taken to the nominee who then has a choice of withdrawing their name from nomination or otherwise risk having that person testify against you at the hearing. Quite frankly, the reason that I didn’t come forward at the time that Clarence’s name was before the committee was because I knew from my experience on Capitol Hill that it really wouldn’t make any difference. What happens is that the party in power will nominate whomever they want. In Clarence’s case, he was nominated, of course, as a result of our having a Republican president. And neither Joe Biden nor any of the other Democratic senators wanted to risk being labeled as racist or thought of as being against a black nominee after Clarence played the race card.
Lillian McEwen: Because it wouldn’t have made any difference whether I went to the media or not. But most importantly, Clarence and I had a conversation before he was nominated in which he informed me that it was his desire that I always say “No comment!” and not give any interviews at all. I regarded that wish as something I pretty much owed him as a friend and as someone who cared about him. My hope was that he would have a conscience and be compassionate while on the bench of the Supreme Court.
Lillian McEwen: First of all, I had no power to prevent him from being appointed. I didn’t have a vote. And secondly, I hoped that he would transform himself back into a person who did the right thing. Besides, there were many other witnesses available to the Senate Judiciary Committee. But I did write a note to Senator Biden around the time of the hearing him reminding him that I had had a close relationship with Clarence Thomas. I would have appeared, had I been subpoenaed to testify.
Lillian McEwen: There were other individuals who had worked with Clarence who were willing to testify at the confirmation hearings. So, I wasn’t the only one who could have corroborated Anita Hill’s testimony. Furthermore, long before the nomination, I was utterly convinced that she and Clarence had had a sexual relationship.
Lillian McEwen: There came a time during his tenure as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that he began to complain vociferously about the behavior of Anita Hill at the office. He would whine about it every day. He even asked me on several occasions to come to the office to wait for him, because “Anita Hill has to see that I have another woman in my life now. It has to be made plain to her that we don’t have the same type of relationship we once had.”
Lillian McEwen: I think it’s more complicated than that. I think Anita Hill never imagined that she would be the only person testifying against the man who had given her her job, who had been at her beck and call, and who had made sure that she was a successful attorney.
Lillian McEwen: No, other than being introduced to her when Clarence became Chairman of the EEOC, and the times when I went sat around the office to send her a message for him. [Chuckles]
Lillian McEwen: That’s never occurred to me.
Lillian McEwen: When I left him, Clarence said he was envious and resentful of my ability to read for pleasure. It had been obvious to me that he had no real intellectual curiosity whatsoever and that the material he had to handle at the EEOC was fairly difficult for him to handle. At that time, he was making speeches all over the country in support of the Republican agenda, and he always employed a speechwriter to help him. It was very difficult for him to process, focus on or to grasp complex ideas. This was a man who prided himself on his perceiving the world in very stark terms.
Lillian McEwen: As you quoted rather courageously in your review, one of his favorite sayings (“[N-words] and flies, I do despise. The more I see [N-words], the more I like flies.”) is a chant that racist white people used to say while sitting on their porches to frighten and intimidate black people passing by on the sidewalk. I regard that as self-hating, and a legacy of slavery.
Lillian McEwen: No, he had already had a vasectomy, and I had no interest in getting remarried or having more children.
Lillian McEwen: Something I learned while socializing with Clarence was that black Republican men generally had white wives, almost as if it was a litmus test, a way of assuring white men that they could be counted on to be consistent politically.
Lillian McEwen: I always felt like I was on a precipice, as if I would be punished if I said anything negative about him. I was also in great fear of how people would view me in respect to hurting him or how they might judge my behavior as immoral. I was in fear because I felt that if I tarnished his image, I would be hurt in return.
Lillian McEwen: Regarding the first question – I never thought of anything we did as freaky. “D.C. Unmasked and Undressed” does, however, describe in great detail sexual encounters with four different women who shared our bed. Clarence contributed two and I contributed two. The book also describes in detail the “see and be-seen” atmosphere at Plato’s Retreat. This was my lifestyle and this was my world before I met him. I enthusiastically introduced him to these adventures. One of the reasons I eventually left him was my assumption that Clarence’s new false religiosity and courtship of the new Evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party would eliminate sexual activity or adventures in the future. I was not insatiable, but I knew what I wanted from the relationship. As far as the freakiest thing he ever wanted to do to me -I never regarded any request Clarence made or any activity we engaged in as freaky, but I do not recall saying no to any suggestion he made, either. Sex was just good, clean fun and an important part of my life before and after Clarence, as I attempt to make clear throughout my memoir.
Lillian McEwen: I wasn’t prevented from testifying at all. I simply reminded Joe Biden of the fact that Clarence and I had been close for several years, and that members of his staff knew him.
Lillian McEwen: [LOL] It is my hope that my memoir might help some people imagine that their lives could be different. Perhaps, by honestly relating a truthful narrative, my book will illustrate a possible way of going through the world that is not harmful and which is consistent and compatible with being sane, normal and successful. You may not like this life or think there’s something wrong with it, but you cannot deny the fact that I have lived this life. If the book explodes some myths, then it is valuable as a narrative and as a way of looking at the world that you might never have thought possible.
Lillian McEwen: The fact that I wasn’t parented and went to a Catholic school resulted in my realizing that there is huge difference between right and wrong. Also, for some reason, I don’t share the same inhibitions of people who have been parented. I’ve gone through life just doing what seems natural to me. I’ve tried really, really hard to take pleasure in something that’s fairly simple whenever I can. I’ve never attached moralistic terms to sexual acts or preferences, unless they harmed someone. [Laughs] It never occurred to me when I wrote the book that my sex life was unusual at all. To the degree that you can eliminate stifling masks, you’ll lead a more honest life, you’ll be more content in life, and it’ll be easier for you to go through life. And conversely, the more you firmly affix that mask to your face and convolute your own values to conform, the more confused and crazier you’ll get. [LOL]
Lillian McEwen: Five years ago, Clarence stopped asking questions during oral arguments, and has taken to criticizing his fellow justices for wasting time grandstanding. I believe that another reason he’s quiet is because he’s had to overcome his Geechee roots. He often lapses back into Geechee way of pronouncing words and an ungrammatical sentence structure, which is embarrassing to him. He is fundamentally a very shy person, and is very sensitive about any criticism about his manner of speaking. And it would be a great source of embarrassment if leveled in the context of a Supreme Court argument.
Lillian McEwen: An appreciation for truth-telling. I tried to communicate that it’s really important for us to go through life guiding our behavior and standards based not only on knowledge and reason but on the pleasures and serendipity of life. I don’t know whether I’ve achieved that, but I gave it my best shot.
Lillian McEwen: I didn’t write the book to make money, but because I needed to evaluate what was going with my own self with respect to the world. When I finished writing it, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. This was before I got a PR person, an agent or a publisher. It was important to me to get my own life down on paper in my own words. I never thought about how much money I could make from it, because I retired in 2007 and have an income for the rest of my life, thanks to your tax dollars. [Chuckles]
received? Why didn’t any other people who saw you at these places ever said anything during Thomas’ hearings or over the past 20 years?
Lillian McEwen: There are dozens of people who are aware of the events that are described in my book. And I actually expected some of them to come forward at any minute and to reveal these matters, and it might happen next week.
Lillian McEwen: It’s certainly something that the participants knew about. I’m not talking about 1-on-1 experiences. [Laughs]
Lillian McEwen: He would put his real name on the list.
Lillian McEwen: For much of it, yes. [LOL]
Lillian McEwen: I pulled him there. I had already lived my life that way well before I met him, and had been involved in threesomes for several years. Without realizing it, I had a totally different view from the majority of Americans of what human sexuality should look like.
Lillian McEwen: The best defense against any accusation like that is truth. The general rule is, as long as you’re telling the truth, they’re wasting a lot of time and energy coming after you. And there’s nothing in my memoir that is not true.
Lillian McEwen: Yes, that’s correct. That call by Ginny Thomas was the catalyst. Otherwise, it might have just stayed in the closet for some time longer. I wasn’t yet comfortable approaching publishers myself, because of the nature of the book.
Lillian McEwen: I think that would be great. I wouldn’t say “No.”
Lillian McEwen: No.
Lillian McEwen: I had always been terrified that somebody would talk to the press or find some film footage of me from Plato’s Retreat. But now that the book is out, I have a completely different view of my relationship with Clarence. It’s liberating and almost funny to see people’s reactions. It’s almost like a different chapter of my life has been opened for me. I’m not really accustomed to it yet, but there isn’t any part of it that says “Be scared!”
Lillian McEwen: I’m pretty sure that’s true. But he liked to watch and to be watched.
Lillian McEwen: His preferences were for large penises, ejaculation scenes with men erupting like volcanoes, and also huge breasts on obese women. It bored me to tears, personally, but it was extremely important to him.
Lillian McEwen: Happiness is overrated. I would call myself content at this point in my life.
Lillian McEwen: [Chuckles] Yeah, it really did.
Lillian McEwen: No, they want to stay as far away from me as possible. I imagine I’m going to lose a lot of friends over the book. I already have.
Lillian McEwen: I like Mozart, Frank Sinatra, and some of the rap artists.
Lillian McEwen: I love crispy duck.
Lillian McEwen: Prada.
Lillian McEwen: I’m always surprised, because the older I get, the more I look like my mother. But I’m always hoping that it’s somebody else, because I’ve always wanted to be a brown or dark-skinned black woman, to match what I feel like inside.
Lillian McEwen: It certainly would be to remove evil from the world.
Lillian McEwen: By reading books and listening to music to remind myself that the future is going to be very different from what is happening right then.
Lillian McEwen: Martin Luther King, a man who spoke for all of humanity.
Lillian McEwen: My two parents who were not only physically abusive, but also verbally, mentally and emotionally abusive. I almost did not survive my childhood, and two of my siblings were destroyed right in front of my eyes by them.
Lillian McEwen: I would give my life.
Lillian McEwen: Learning what love is like. I had no clue what it truly meant to love another human being until my daughter was born.
Lillian McEwen: Read, so that you can figure out how to reason your way out of situations. Secondly, don’t compromise. Don’t do something for a living that you know you’re not suited for, that’s not going to bring you happiness or challenge you. And don’t stay in a relationship that’s not allowing you to be the way you want to be.
Lillian McEwen: Regret is the most futile of human emotions. I really mean that.
Lillian McEwen: As a person who told the truth about a life that was unusual and important in certain respects. And as a person who showed that Clarence should have withdrawn his name from the nomination process. Of course, he wouldn’t have been able to reward his friends and punish his enemies as he is now able to do sitting on the Supreme Court bench.
To order a copy of D.C. Unmasked & Undressed, visit: