Backgrounder: Hardness & Jourdain

Much has been made recently of the statements by Sukari Hardnett and Rose Jourdain, which were entered into the congressional record in lieu of live testimony.  Some have suggested that live testimony from these two women would have significantly bolstered Hill’s allegations.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Neither Hardnett nor Jourdain could have offered any testimony about Hill specifically, and their statements about Thomas’ behavior in the office was flatly contradicted by numerous colleagues who had not, as these two had, left the agency under unfavorable circumstances.

Sukari Hardnett, who worked briefly at the EEOC during Thomas’ tenure, filed an affidavit claiming that all young black females who worked directly for Thomas were “inspected and auditioned” as objects of sexual interest.  She admitted that she was not claiming to have ever been sexually harassed by Thomas, and she related no request for dates or other comments to back up her claim of “audition[ing]” but merely insisted that women know when a man is interested in them.

Rose Jourdain, who worked as a speechwriter for Thomas at the EEOC, gave a telephonic interview intended to corroborate Angela Wright’s claims of inappropriate conduct.  Like Hardnett, Jourdain admitted that she had never experienced any sort of harassment from Thomas and had never witnessed any such behavior.  She nevertheless claimed that her friend, Angela Wright, had told her that Thomas made comments about her body and wardrobe that made her uneasy.

As with all of the other witnesses who offered statements against Thomas, however, there were serious flaws with Hardnett and Jourdain.  Both Hardnett and Jourdain had left the agency under negative circumstances.  The record is conflicting on what precisely happened to Hardnett—some claimed she had been dismissed from the agency when she failed to pass the bar, but Hardnett claimed that she obtained a transfer to another office before ultimately resigning from the agency after she was made to feel like an “outcast.”  Whatever the true circumstances for her departure, it is clear that it was not a positive one.  Jourdain, on the other hand, admitted in her interview that Thomas had fired her from the agency.

Even more damning, however, is the unequivocal testimony of a dozen former coworkers of Thomas that Thomas always behaved with the utmost professionalism toward his employees. Of particular note is the testimony of two women who knew Hardnett at the agency.  Diane Holt, who served as Thomas’ secretary at the time, testified that she “never heard anyone at any time make any reference to any inappropriate conduct in relation to Clarence Thomas.”  Nancy Fitch, who also worked at the EEOC with Thomas and Hardnett, testified that “the probability of” Justice Thomas pursuing anyone, repeatedly asking for dates, was “zero.”  She further testified that “[t]here were never any stories floating around about the chairman . . . of this kind of nature.”

Jourdain’s interview, intended to corroborate Wright’s, was actually in conflict with that interview too. Wright could not remember any conversations with anyone discussing specific comments made to her by Thomas, but Jourdain claimed to remember several such conversations.  Wright said she never felt threatened or intimidated by Thomas and was merely annoyed, but Jourdain claimed Wright became nervous and uneasy to the point of tears about being alone with Thomas.

But it is not only the substance of the statements that leads one to doubt the veracity of them; the circumstances surrounding these witnesses do too.  Jourdain, for example, did not even want her statements to be sworn.  Although she initially gave her telephonic interview under oath, she requested that it be treated as unsworn after warned about the possibility of a perjury claim.  For her part, Hardnett went into the private practice of law after the hearings, where she has had a troubling record.  In 2005, a federal district court dismissed her client’s case with prejudice because Hardnett repeatedly failed to meet filing deadlines.  In 2008, she was suspended from the practice of law for 60 days.  And in 2012, she was publicly reprimanded by consent.

It is understandable that Hill would look for someone—anyone—who could bolster her weak claims, but Hardnett and Jourdain were no better positioned to do so than her other “corroborating” witnesses.