Clarence Thomas.
Clarence Thomas. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Supporters of Justice Clarence Thomas began to rise to his defense with outrage and skepticism of a claim Thursday by an Alaskan lawyer that the justice groped her when she was a young scholar in 1999.

Carrie Severino, a former Thomas clerk and head of the Judicial Crisis Network, called the allegation “silly on its face.” She added: “The fact that so many partisan democratic operatives are involved makes it seem a coordinated hit job.” Severino wrote a Bench Memos post at National Review titled Justice Thomas Is A Good Man.

The National Law Journal and Law.com on Thursday reported that Moira Smith, vice president and general counsel of the Alaska energy company ENSTAR claimed that Thomas inappropriately touched her at a dinner party in 1999 when she was a Truman Foundation resident scholar, just shy of her 24th birthday.

Smith’s three housemates at the time said she shared the incident with them that night or early the next morning. Smith’s ex-husband, who also was a Truman scholar in 1999, recalled that Smith told him about the incident soon afterwards.

Smith’s ex-husband was until recently a senior climate change advisor in the Obama White House and is now a senior fellow at the Rocky Mountain Institute. One of Smith’s housemates in 1999 runs her own political consulting firm in San Diego.

Louis Blair, the host of the 1999 dinner party and now retired as the Truman Foundation director, said he did not witness anything involving Thomas and Smith, and neither did another scholar who worked that evening with Smith.

Severino emphasized that there was not a single witness to Smith’s claim and it was “implausible” that a Supreme Court justice would be alone at any social event.

“They are mobbed the entire time at events,” she said. “This is utterly inconsistent with the man I worked closely with on a daily basis for a year. None of this is even remotely plausible to me.”

Thomas, in response for comment on the story, said in a statement through the court’s public information office on Wednesday: “The claim is preposterous and it never happened.”

No public allegations of inappropriate conduct against Thomas have been made since Anita Hill’s contention, at Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearings, that her former boss sexually harassed her verbally. Thomas, who recently celebrated his 25th anniversary on the court, vehemently denied the allegations.

Thomas on Wednesday night in Washington spoke critically of what he called a “broken” confirmation process. In remarks at the Heritage foundation, Thomas said: “I think we have decided that rather than confront disagreements, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with me. I don’t think that’s going to work in a republic, in a civil society.”