Justice Thomas accused of groping woman at 1999 party

Greg Stohr
Bloomberg News

A woman is accusing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her at a dinner party in 1999 when she was a young scholar.

Moira Smith, now vice president and general counsel at Enstar Natural Gas Co. in Alaska, says Thomas squeezed her buttocks several times at the party, according to the National Law Journal, which first reported the allegations.

“When Justice Thomas touched me inappropriately and without my consent, I was 23 years old — and felt there was nothing I could do,” she said in a statement provided to Bloomberg News by Laura Fink, who said she was Smith’s housemate at the time.

Thomas, 68, who was accused during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearing of sexual harassment, denied Smith’s allegations.

“This claim is preposterous and it never happened,” Thomas told the National Law Journal in a statement. Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia Estrada declined to comment further.

The National Law Journal said Smith made the allegation in a Facebook post on Oct. 7, the day an audiotape emerged from 2005 in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragged about groping and kissing women without their consent.

Smith was a Truman Foundation scholar and was helping set up a dinner party being attended by Thomas in the Washington suburbs, the law journal said. She said Thomas was sitting at a table while she was setting it, and that he repeatedly squeezed her buttocks and said she should sit next to him, the National Law Journal reported. She said she was alone with the justice when the incident occurred.

“As the mother of a young daughter and son, I am coming forward to show that it is important to stand up for yourself and tell the truth,” Smith said in her statement Thursday. “When powerful men commit sexual assault, they count on their victims keeping it a secret.”

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Fink said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News that she replied to Smith’s Facebook post by saying she remembered having talked with Smith about the incident.

The National Law Journal article said it interviewed Smith, Fink and other friends who said she told them about the alleged incident in 1999.

Sexual assault against women has become a subject of national debate since the Trump audiotape became public. Fink, a political consultant, wrote an Oct. 21 column in the San Diego Union-Tribune describing her experience as one of more than 20 women who reported being sexually harassed by onetime San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. He resigned in 2013 and pleaded guilty to charges involving three women.

Thomas speech

The story came a day after Thomas publicly lamented the rancor that has come to dominate public debates.

“We have decided that rather than confront the disagreements and differences of opinions, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with us,” Thomas told an audience at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. “I don’t think that’s going to work.”

Thomas was narrowly confirmed in 1991 after a rancorous hearing into allegations that he sexually harassed Anita Hill, an attorney who worked for him when he was chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas called his confirmation hearing a "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.”