Behind The Scenes At Thomas Hearings


Children's cartoons yielded to another day of graphic testimony yesterday as the three major networks resumed live coverage of the dramatic confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

But ABC anchor Peter Jennings, mindful of young viewers in Eastern and Central time zones when the second day of hearings began shortly after 7 a.m. PDT, prefaced them with a primer for children on what it was all about.

He delicately alluded to the graphic descriptions on Friday that were part of what law professor Anita Hill called sexual harassment by Thomas, her former boss.

Warning that "you may hear some not very nice language," Jennings told young television viewers that Thomas and Hill "have a very painful disagreement about some things the woman says the man did to her when they were working together.

"You can ask your parents to tell you more, but the thing is, he says he didn't do any of them."


Perhaps it's the length of the hearings, but the principals have been having trouble keeping the cast of characters and their titles straight.

Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, called Thomas "Judge Hill" and then quickly apologized after Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., whispered in Metzenbaum's ear.

Committee Chairman Joseph Biden Jr., D-Del., slipped a couple of times and called Hill "Professor Thomas."

Perhaps the worst gaffe, though, was when Biden referred to Hill as "the nominee."


Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Mormon who professed shock and disgust at the graphic testimony, has a little-known tie to a porn star, according to a 1989 book called "Burning Desires: Sex in America."

Elisa Florez, alias "Missy Manners," was once an intern in Hatch's Senate office, according to authors Steve Chapple and David Talbot.

Florez is the daughter of John Florez, a former Senate committee staff director and a Reagan appointee.


Sen. Kennedy, who has himself been the target of sexual misconduct allegations over the years, seems to be playing a deliberately low-key role in the Thomas hearings.

As the second-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Kennedy was given the task of reading back some of Hill's testimony.

But he rushed through it so quickly that it was virtually incomprehensible - a lot like one of those goofy Federal Express commercials.