Justice Clarence Thomas' Former Lover Speaks Out on Relationship in TV Interview

Lillian McEwen, who is pushing a memoir, discusses her relationship with Thomas.

October 22, 2010, 6:16 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2010 — -- A former girlfriend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has broken her 19-year silence about a "serious" relationship the two had during the 1980s, reigniting the debate over Thomas' sexual behavior first sparked by Anita Hill's famed confirmation hearing testimony in 1991.

Lillian McEwen, a retired prosecutor, law professor and administrative law judge, discussed her intimacy with Thomas in a lengthy television interview Friday with reporter Rebecca Cooper of ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington, D.C.

"He was obsessed with pornography," McEwen told Cooper. "It was something he talked about quite frequently."

McEwen's comments appear to bolster testimony by Hill, who alleged Thomas sexually harassed her by graphically describing his interest in porn.

"He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises or large breasts involved in various sex acts," Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991. "On several occasions Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess."

Thomas vehemently denounced the allegations as an attack motivated by liberal detractors who had colluded with Hill. "I categorically denied all of the allegations, and denied that I ever attempted to date Anita Hill," said Thomas in his testimony.

Outside the hearings, Thomas' supporters pointed to a steady relationship he had with another woman to disprove the charges. That woman was McEwen.

WATCH WJLA's Rebecca Cooper interview Lillian McEwen.

Thomas and McEwen first met on Capitol Hill in 1979 and the two quickly became friends, she told Cooper in the interview. Several years later, after Thomas became separated from his first wife and well before he was elevated to the Supreme Court, their relationship grew intimate.

McEwen, a Democrat who says she has disapproves of Thomas' conservative jurisprudence on the bench, has written a memoir, which she is currently shopping to publishers.

During their roughly five years together, according to McEwen, the couple occasionally went to a porn shop called Graffiti, where the owner stocked Thomas' preferred products behind the counter.

McEwen said that on several occasions Thomas looked at pornographic materials during intercourse.

"His interest in women's breasts was a fantasy. And when I say women's breasts I mean huge breasts," said McEwen. "He would get porn that emphasized that, that had the photographs of women with huge breasts."

McEwen told Cooper that she was not inclined to come forward sooner because of a fondness for Thomas and out of recognition that testimony about personal relationships is not customarily allowed at Senate Confirmation Hearings.

"I knew what the hearing process involved… I knew it didn't make any difference what I said," she said. "I also knew the rules for the hearing… no testimony was allowed except for professional relationships with him."

McEwen also said she felt Hill was not being entirely truthful about her relationship with Thomas.

"I felt that neither was telling the truth because I had always assumed that Clarence had had a sexual relationship with her," she told Cooper, though she said that her view is "conjecture."

McEwen: Hill Doesn't Owe Thomas Apology

Does she believe Anita Hill owes Clarence Thomas an apology, as his wife, Virginia, asked this month in a telephone message to Hill?

"Clarence should know that she doesn't owe him an apology, but it's not something he would have necessarily communicated to his wife," she said.

"I feel sorry for her [Virginia]… because based on his book, I don't think he has shared with her what he was like at that point in his life."

In the interview, McEwen told Cooper that she does not want vengeance against Thomas. She said she remained quiet during the trial, in part, because she was still friendly with her former lover.

Still, McEwen was harshly critical of her former lover's performance on the nation's highest court.

"Clarence is 90 percent of black people's nightmare on the bench," McEwen said of the Justice's rulings on the high court. "So I would say from the point of view alone -- no, he's not suited to be on the bench."

She said Thomas' opinions reflect a transformation of the man she used to know and that they have made her more comfortable with coming forward.

"Clarence has transformed himself -- and continues to transform himself -- into a figure that is fundamentally repugnant," she said.

"Clarence is angry that the black community did not stand up for him... at the point when -- as he would call it -- he was being 'beaten up' at the hearings and even before then," McEwen told Cooper. "I have a firm belief that his rulings on the Supreme Court are a way for him to punish the black leaders and the black community that did not stand up for him.

McEwen, 65, was an administration judge for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Social Security Administration. She formerly taught law at Howard University and the District of Columbia Law School. She also worked on Capitol Hill for then-Sen. Joe Biden, helping him prepare for the Thomas confirmation hearings.

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