'Confirmation': Kerry Washington Says Clarence Thomas Hearings Would Be Different If Anita Hill Were White

She believes the hearings would have been different if Anita Hill were white.

ByABC News
April 8, 2016, 1:29 PM
Actress/Executive Producer Kerry Washington poses at the NYC Special Screening of HBO Film "Confirmation" at Signature Theater, April 7, 2016, in New York.
Actress/Executive Producer Kerry Washington poses at the NYC Special Screening of HBO Film "Confirmation" at Signature Theater, April 7, 2016, in New York.
Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

— -- Kerry Washington plays Anita Hill, the law professor thrust into the national spotlight when she accused then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings, in the new HBO film, "Confirmation."

Although the film centers on gender issues, Washington said she believes race was another key factor. If Anita Hill were white, she said her testimony could have been viewed differently.

"I think it's impossible to say that it wouldn't have been [different]," Washington told ABC News at the New York City premiere last night. "There's all kinds of ways it could've been different -- if he was white, if she was white."

Hill testified in 1991, days before the Senate was set to vote and confirm Thomas to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Her controversial and often times uncomfortable accusations were dissected by a majority male Senate.

Her co-star Wendell Pierce, who portrays Thomas, agreed.

"I think race was a part of it," the actor said. "It may have even changed the course of the confirmation hearing. I think that element of race is always there. And had the race of the plaintiff been a white woman it may have even been more damaging to the Justice."

At the start of the film, then Senator Joe Biden asks an aide, after hearing about Hill's accusations, "Can we just let it go?"

Although she believes Vice President Biden has come a long way in empathizing with women's issues, Washington, who is also an Executive Producer on the film, said his question has become a refrain for issues of "disenfranchised communities."

"Whether it's the gay community, or people of color, or women, or the whole LGBT community or poor people," Washington, 39, said. "A lot of what I believe in is the importance of inclusivity and making sure that our conversations involve more than one voice and more than one perspective."

Washington warns viewers to look beyond "winners or losers or good guys or bad guys" when it comes to the film "Confirmation." She added, "These are really complicated issues with really complicated people."

But regardless of politics, the nomination hearings had a long-lasting affect on not only American politics, but gender politics in the workplace. The year 1992 is remembered as the "Year of the Woman," with an increased awareness of sexual harassment issues and a record number of women ran for political office.

"You could say that because of all of the changes that happened -- because of the number of people of color and women that ran for office, and the way our representational government started to change its face -- that that was a real win for her in terms of her legacy," Washington added.

"Whether you believe her or not, or the Justice or not it doesn't matter," Pierce added, "because ultimately having this painful conversation changed the course of our cultural and political landscape for the better."