Former Sens. John Danforth (Clarence Thomas’ former boss and patron in the Senate) and Alan Simpson (who sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee) are among the politicians who have threatened to sue HBO over what they characterize as the film’s inaccuracies. What’s your reaction to that?
Well, there are things that I think I had to come to grips with: That this is an adaptation, it’s not a documentary. It’s not a documentary. There were, for example, composite characters, the sort of thing that, as a lawyer and a professor and as someone who was involved, kind of bothered me. Language that was used or things that were portrayed weren’t exactly the way that people were behaving in that moment.
I don’t really know what they’re taking issue with — that’s not my concern — but my sense is that if either of them [Danforth or Simpson] were doing the film, it would be different. But the same is true of me. If I were doing the film, there would be a different focus. But I think we have to be clear that much of the information that is conveyed in that film — which might be controversial — is very well-documented from a whole variety of sources. So, I’m not quite sure what it is they are taking issue with, but the documentation was there.
You’ve said in the past that Joe Biden did “a disservice to me, a disservice more importantly, to the public”? And since the film came out there have been reports that the vice president (or intermediaries for him) lobbied to make changes to the film’s portrayal of Biden. Did his portrayal in the film ring true to you?
In terms of my interaction with him? Yes, the portrayal does ring true. It was really kind of eerie, I think, how Greg Kinnear was able to bring him to life. When you see his character portrayed on the screen, it really does give you a feeling that you’re listening to Joe Biden, the senator — Joe Biden at the time. I can only say in terms of my interaction, and the interactions with people from my team, that the portrayal is accurate.
At the time of the hearings, more Americans believed Thomas’ testimony than believed yours. You have to assume that these behind-the-scenes machinations you mention that went on behalf of Clarence Thomas were a big factor in shaping public opinion. One of the Republican operatives who led the campaign to discredit you at the time, David Brock, later came out and apologized, and admitted he made things up. Do admissions like that feel like vindication?
That’s the word! That’s the word I often get. I’ve kind of resisted that word because in my mind, I’ve always known why I was there, that what I was saying was true. That it was my experience. I knew I had support for it when my witnesses came forward. I didn’t feel so much like I needed vindication, but I think the important message to get from this is how much power there was behind keeping me quiet, or silencing me, or making what I said sound untruthful or unimportant.