An Alaska lawyer said Justice Clarence Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999, a claim that Thomas said is “preposterous,” the National Law Journal reported Thursday.
The publication said Moira Smith posted on Facebook about the alleged incident Oct. 7, the night of the disclosure of Republican presidential nominee’ Donald Trump’s taped boasts about grabbing women.
The NLJ report said Smith, at the time a 23-year-old Truman Foundation scholar, said that the incident occurred at the Falls Church, Va., home of her boss. She said Thomas grabbed and squeezed her buttocks several times.
“He groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit ‘right next to him,’ ” Smith wrote, according to the NLJ report.
The publication’s Supreme Court reporter, Marcia Coyle, wrote that Smith has now deactivated the Facebook account, but that she interviewed Smith and others about the alleged incident over a two-week period. Coyle reported that a source alerted her to the Facebook posting.
Thomas, in a statement through the Supreme Court’s press office, denied Smith’s allegations.
“This claim is preposterous and it never happened,” Thomas said.
The allegation comes as Thomas is marking his 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court. His contentious confirmation in 1991 was rocked by the claims of a former employee, Anita Hill, that Thomas had verbally sexually harassed her. Those hearings riveted the nation.
Smith is now vice president and general counsel to Enstar Natural Gas Co. in Alaska. Laura Fink, a spokesperson for Smith, confirmed that the NLJ story is accurate. She told The Washington Post that Smith will be releasing a statement soon.
Guests at the party thrown by Louis Blair, then the head of the Truman Foundation, told the NLJ that they had never heard of claims of untoward activity by Thomas. Blair questioned whether Thomas ever would have been alone with a dinner guest.
Friends of Smith remembered her telling them about the incident, according to the story.
“Her three former housemates during the spring and summer of 1999 each said in interviews they remembered Smith describing inappropriate contact by Thomas after she came home that night from the dinner or early the next morning,” Coyle wrote.
“They also remembered their own shock and inability to advise her about how to respond. Another Truman scholar that summer, whom Smith would later marry and divorce, said in an interview he ‘definitely remembered’ her sharing with him what had happened soon after the dinner party.”
The foundation was created by Congress and is a nationwide scholarship competition that identifies students “who demonstrate outstanding potential for and who plan to pursue a career in public service.”
Thomas’s supporters were quick to defend him against the allegations, and to charge that Smith’s allegations were politically motivated. They noted that she has given to Democratic candidates and that her former husband was a former party official.
“Justice Thomas has hired more than 30 women law clerks over the years, has worked closely with them day in and day out, and none of them has ever accused him of any inappropriate conduct. In fact, they hold him in the highest regard,” said Mark Paoletta, a former assistant White House counsel who worked on Thomas’s confirmation. “I do not consider it a coincidence that this Democratic smear on Justice Thomas comes as he celebrates 25 years on the court, and in the heat of a presidential election.”
A relaxed and funny Thomas spoke to an audience Wednesday night at the Heritage Foundation.
In the Facebook posting reproduced in the NLJ story, Smith said she had been the victim of date rape in college and was groped by an acquaintance after the alleged incident with Thomas. She said she decided to go public after listing to the Trump tape.
“Enough is enough,” she wrote.