Amid Kavanaugh controversy, echoes of Anita Hill on Capitol Hill

Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., center, leads a delegation of congressswomen from the House to the Senate on Capitol Hill to voice their concerns on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 1991.  Accompanying Schroeder, from left, are, Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C., Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Patsey Mink, D-Hi., and Jolene Unsoeld, D-Wash.  (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., center, leads a delegation of congresswomen from the House to the Senate on Capitol Hill to voice their concerns on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 1991. Accompanying Schroeder, from left, are, Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C., Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Patsey Mink, D-Hi., and Jolene Unsoeld, D-Wash. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/MARCY NIGHSWANDER)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill, who accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, leaves Washington's National Airport in Arlington, Va., amid heavy security, Friday, October 10, 1991.  Hill was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday.  (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill, who accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, leaves Washington’s National Airport in Arlington, Va., amid heavy security, Friday, October 10, 1991. (AP Photo/Doug Mills) (AP/DOUG MILLS)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill is sworn in, in the Caucus Room before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 11, 1991. Hill's explosive allegations included graphic language and were carried live by many media outlets throughout the nation. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill is sworn in, in the Caucus Room before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 11, 1991. Hill’s explosive allegations included graphic language and were carried live by many media outlets throughout the nation. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Greg Gibson)
** FILE ** Anita Hill testifies in the Russell Caucus room on Capitol Hill in Washington where the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing testimony on the nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo. It has been the stage for Washington's grandest political theater: the investigation of the sinking of the Titanic, the Army-McCarthy hearings, and presidential scandals from Teapot Dome to Watergate and Iran-Contra. When John Roberts takes the oath in the Caucus Room of the Senate's Russell office building, he will join nearly a century's worth of witnesses to undergo the scrutiny of senators there.  (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)
** FILE ** Anita Hill testifies in the Russell Caucus room on Capitol Hill in Washington where the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing testimony on the nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File) (AP/GREG GIBSON)
** FILE**University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo. Thrust briefly back in the spotlight by biting words in Thomas' new book, Hill now is trying to answer this question: Have things gotten better for women in the workplace? (AP Photo/John Duricka, file)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in this Oct. 11, 1991, file photo. (AP Photo/John Duricka, file) (AP/JOHN DURICKA)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill straightens papers after making her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Oct. 11, 1991. Hill testified that Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas repeatedly would ?use work situations to discuss sex.? (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill straightens papers after making her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Oct. 11, 1991. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson) (AP/Greg Gibson)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill receives councel from Charles Ogeltree while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Friday, Oct. 11, 1991.  (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill receives counsel from Charles Ogeltree while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Friday, Oct. 11, 1991. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson) (AP/GREG GIBSON)
FILE - This Oct. 11, 1991 file photo shows University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill receiving a hug from her mother, Erma, after making opening comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.  Hill made national headlines in 1991 when she testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Now, more than 20 years later, director Freida Mock explores Hill's landmark testimony and the resulting social and political changes in the documentary "Anita." (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)
This Oct. 11, 1991 file photo shows University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill receiving a hug from her mother, Erma, after making opening comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Hill made national headlines in 1991 when she testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File) (AP/GREG GIBSON)
Judge Clarence Thomas pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 11, 1991. A calm and resolute Thomas categorically denied Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment and told a tense session of the committee, "confirm me if you want," but that "no job is worth" what he has been through. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Judge Clarence Thomas pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 11, 1991. A calm and resolute Thomas categorically denied Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment and told a tense session of the committee, “confirm me if you want,” but that “no job is worth” what he has been through. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Greg Gibson)
Judge Clarence Thomas prepares for another day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 12, 1991. Thomas flatly denied on Saturday that he had ever discussed pornographic movies with Anita Hill or anyone else in the workplace. Thomas? wife, Virginia, sits behind. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Judge Clarence Thomas prepares for another day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 12, 1991. Thomas flatly denied on Saturday that he had ever discussed pornographic movies with Anita Hill or anyone else in the workplace. Thomas’ wife, Virginia, sits behind. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Greg Gibson)
Judge Clarence Thomas pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 12, 1991. Thomas flatly denied on Saturday that he had ever discussed pornographic movies with Anita Hill or anyone else in the workplace. (AP Photo/John Duricka)
Judge Clarence Thomas pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 12, 1991. Thomas flatly denied on Saturday that he had ever discussed pornographic movies with Anita Hill or anyone else in the workplace. (AP Photo/John Duricka) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/John Duricka)
Demonstrators on Capitol Hill yell toward the Russell Senate Office Building in Support of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in Washington, Oct. 15, 1991 as the Senate debated the Thomas nomination. The confirmation vote is expected on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Demonstrators on Capitol Hill yell toward the Russell Senate Office Building in Support of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in Washington, Oct. 15, 1991, as the Senate debated the Thomas nomination. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) (AP/Ron Edmonds)
Women protest the nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 1991. Thomas gained enough Senate commitments to virtually assure confirmation on Tuesday at night as the heart of his Democratic support stood firm despite Anita Hill?s explosive charges of sexual harassment. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Women protest the nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 1991. Thomas gained enough Senate commitments to virtually assure confirmation as the heart of his Democratic support stood firm despite Anita Hill’s explosive charges of sexual harassment. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) (AP/Ron Edmonds)
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Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., center, leads a delegation of congressswomen from the House to the Senate on Capitol Hill to voice their concerns on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 1991.  Accompanying Schroeder, from left, are, Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C., Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., Patsey Mink, D-Hi., and Jolene Unsoeld, D-Wash.  (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill, who accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, leaves Washington's National Airport in Arlington, Va., amid heavy security, Friday, October 10, 1991.  Hill was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday.  (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill is sworn in, in the Caucus Room before testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 11, 1991. Hill's explosive allegations included graphic language and were carried live by many media outlets throughout the nation. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
** FILE ** Anita Hill testifies in the Russell Caucus room on Capitol Hill in Washington where the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing testimony on the nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo. It has been the stage for Washington's grandest political theater: the investigation of the sinking of the Titanic, the Army-McCarthy hearings, and presidential scandals from Teapot Dome to Watergate and Iran-Contra. When John Roberts takes the oath in the Caucus Room of the Senate's Russell office building, he will join nearly a century's worth of witnesses to undergo the scrutiny of senators there.  (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)
** FILE**University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in this Oct. 11, 1991 file photo. Thrust briefly back in the spotlight by biting words in Thomas' new book, Hill now is trying to answer this question: Have things gotten better for women in the workplace? (AP Photo/John Duricka, file)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill straightens papers after making her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Oct. 11, 1991. Hill testified that Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas repeatedly would ?use work situations to discuss sex.? (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill receives councel from Charles Ogeltree while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Friday, Oct. 11, 1991.  (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
FILE - This Oct. 11, 1991 file photo shows University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill receiving a hug from her mother, Erma, after making opening comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.  Hill made national headlines in 1991 when she testified that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Now, more than 20 years later, director Freida Mock explores Hill's landmark testimony and the resulting social and political changes in the documentary "Anita." (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)
Judge Clarence Thomas pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 11, 1991. A calm and resolute Thomas categorically denied Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment and told a tense session of the committee, "confirm me if you want," but that "no job is worth" what he has been through. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Judge Clarence Thomas prepares for another day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 12, 1991. Thomas flatly denied on Saturday that he had ever discussed pornographic movies with Anita Hill or anyone else in the workplace. Thomas? wife, Virginia, sits behind. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
Judge Clarence Thomas pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 12, 1991. Thomas flatly denied on Saturday that he had ever discussed pornographic movies with Anita Hill or anyone else in the workplace. (AP Photo/John Duricka)
Demonstrators on Capitol Hill yell toward the Russell Senate Office Building in Support of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in Washington, Oct. 15, 1991 as the Senate debated the Thomas nomination. The confirmation vote is expected on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Women protest the nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 1991. Thomas gained enough Senate commitments to virtually assure confirmation on Tuesday at night as the heart of his Democratic support stood firm despite Anita Hill?s explosive charges of sexual harassment. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

WASHINGTON — With Washington in turmoil over a Supreme Court nominee who suddenly finds his Senate confirmation in trouble after allegations of sexual misconduct, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton sees a version of history repeating itself.

In 1991, Clarence Thomas was heading toward what appeared to be a fairly straightforward confirmation vote to replace Thurgood Marshall on the nation’s high court. But, the nomination process was quickly upended when the allegations of Anita Hill, an attorney from Oklahoma, became public. She accused Thomas of sexual harassment in the workplace when he was her supervisor; he categorically denied her account.

Hearings on Capitol Hill over the matter went on to became a cultural spectacle.

Norton worked closely with other lawmakers to help Hill testify. But, she believes there are important differences between that case and the allegations raised by Christine Blasey Ford against President Donald Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

“This is far more serious than the accusation against Clarence Thomas,” Norton said of Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a high school party in the early 1980s.

Ford has said Kavanaugh was drunk and that he jumped on her and tried to pull off her clothes at the party. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegation and vowed to rebut it at a hearing scheduled for next Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It was still unclear on Wednesday whether Ford will testify at that hearing, following her lawyers’ request that the FBI investigate her allegation before she speaks to lawmakers.

In 1991, Norton was one of seven women in Congress who became so upset with what they saw happening to Hill that they marched from the House side of the Capitol to the Senate to try to meet with the powerful men controlling the confirmation hearings.

“We went over and they were, indeed, having a meeting,” Norton said. “We knocked on the door, and they said, ‘You can’t come in.'”

Though the group was initially rebuffed, Norton said she believes the efforts helped Hill be able to tell her story.

“Remember, the Democrats were in charge,” she said. “They had to learn that you’ve got to give a hearing at least, so they’ve learned that much,” Norton said in an interview at her Rayburn House office.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time was Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, of Delaware.

Republicans currently control the committee.

Norton worked with Hill to get ready for the hearings and came away impressed. The lawmaker felt “we must hear from this woman.”

“She was poised; she was low-key; she was lawyer-like — indeed, she is a lawyer. Once you heard her, it seemed to me the case had been made,” Norton said. “But, of course, it wasn’t.”

If Ford goes ahead with testifying before lawmakers, Norton said her advice would be to go back and watch Hill’s testimony from 27 years ago.

“You will understand exactly what you have to do. That’s just how perfect her testimony was before the Senate,” Norton said.

Whatever happens moving forward, the current confirmation hearings will likely have political implications. Supporters of the #MeToo movement believe it’s an important test for political leaders.

Norton pointed out that women had strong turnout at the polls in 1992, the year after the Thomas confirmation hearings.

“That turned out to be the Year of the Woman … and we got more women than we had ever had in the Senate,” she said.

In 1992, 24 women were elected to the House of Representatives; four were elected to the Senate.

One of those elected was Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of California, now the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has been criticized by Republicans for not coming forward earlier with information about Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh. Feinstein has defended herself, noting that Ford had initially asked to keep the allegations confidential.

Republicans are still counting on the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh and provide Trump with a second successful nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed last year.

No matter what happens next, Norton noted, “The public will be looking very carefully at how this is handled.”

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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