The gist of Abramson’s argument, I think, is that while the conduct Hill and at least three other women accused Thomas of engaging in may not have been severe or pervasive enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment, legally speaking — Hill herself was careful not to claim that it did — Thomas’s lies under oath about his highly inappropriate workplace behavior should still today disqualify him from being on the Supreme Court.
Smith’s allegation is a different matter altogether. She accuses Thomas of sexual assault, which is not merely inappropriate workplace behavior but a crime. Unfortunately even though Smith’s story — which got buried the day it appeared by Jim Comey’s new letter to Congress about EMAILZ — is Abramson’s lede, she doesn’t emphasize sufficiently that it constitutes, in my view, a far more compelling ground for removing Thomas than either Hill’s circumspect account or Thomas’s lies about his interactions with Hill.
(1) I’ve never doubted that Thomas lied about his interactions with Anita Hill, under (at the least) a clear and convincing standard of evidence. Given his transparent perjury, confirming him was a disgrace — one in which no less than eleven Democratic senators participated by voting yes (Thomas was confirmed by a 52-48 vote, with two Republicans voting no. Oh for the heady days of true bi-partisanship!).
(2) Sexual assault is generally speaking a much worse crime than perjury, and there’s also little doubt that Thomas sexually assaulted Moria Smith, eight years after he joined the SCOTUS (read Marcia Coyle’s story linked above for the evidence).
(3) Thomas will be 70 this June. Replacing him with a 43-year-old Federalist Society replicant would be a catastrophe. I would not at all be surprised if, after a wave election this fall that makes it clear America’s flirtation with fascism-lite is probably over for the short term, the highly principled leaders of the GOP decide that the evidence against Thomas simply compels them to beg their Democratic colleagues to help remove him from office.