Jill Abramson’s hit piece on Clarence Thomas remarkably relies on David Brock and Fred Cooke, although Brock himself rebutted Abramson’s own work on Thomas and has highlighted Cooke as a problematic source. Here are the facts.
After Jill Abramson and Jane Meyer published their book about Justice Thomas, Strange Justice, David Brock wrote a lengthy and detailed rebuttal of the book. Here is how he summarized his findings, which could also be used to summarize this latest piece by Abramson:
Mayer and Abramson have made these accusations on the basis of accounts from sources who tell me they were either flatly misquoted or misrepresented, or refused to confirm information attributed to them. The list of these people who say they were misquoted includes the only woman whose allegations against Thomas have not been previously reported — and refuted — in prior books or articles. In addition to relying on fake evidence, doctored quotes, and unsupported hearsay, the book is brimming with anonymous and discreditable sources. Key figures were never interviewed. Where evidence does not fit the authors’ point, it is ignored entirely. And a whole array of alleged facts — small and large — are simply wrong.
Regarding Barry Maddox and Fred Cooke, Brock wrote:
The case that Thomas exhibited an interest in pornography after his student days rests on the accounts of two people: Barry Maddox, the proprietor of a Washington, D.C. video rental shop, and Frederick Cooke, a Washington attorney. [A third source, Kaye Savage, who claims to have information linking Thomas to Playboy magazine, is discussed later in this review.] Mayer and Abramson write:
“But the interest in pornography that Thomas first exhibited at Yale apparently continued through the early 1980s, when Long Dong Silver was a well-known figure among fans of X-rated movies. According to Barry Maddox, the proprietor of Graffiti, a video rental and equipment store just off Dupont Circle, a few blocks from the EEOC’s headquarters, the store began to rent pornographic videos in 1982. Not long afterward, Maddox recalled, Thomas became a regular customer.”
There are several problems with this account, including that the EEOC’s headquarters at 18th and L Streets NW, a few blocks south of the Dupont Circle area, did not open until August 1989. Thomas worked at that location for only a matter of months, and during the entire time he was in the middle of a brutal confirmation fight for a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which he won in March 1990. In the early 1980s, when Maddox claims Thomas was a regular customer, the EEOC’s headquarters were at Columbia Plaza at 24th and E Streets NW — nowhere near Dupont Circle or Graffiti.
National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg has punched a far bigger hole in Maddox’s account. In response to a question after giving a speech at Stanford University in the spring of 1992, Totenberg said: