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Nancy Goldstein
Brooklyn, NY

Nancy Goldstein

I’m a communications professional and journalist known for addressing complex, sometimes unpopular issues in lucid, compelling prose.

Oy Vey of the Day

Editor's note: For Wednesday morning's post, we asked our finalists to write something that could become a regular feature.

Today's Oy Vey of the Day -- which I define as actions by a newsmaker guaranteed to make their PR people weep or the rest of us wince -- is the news that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, recently left a voicemail message for Professor Anita Hill asking for an apology. Let's put it this way: One of the more popular hashtags for folks discussing it on Twitter is #youcantmakethissh*tup.


What on earth inspired Thomas to suddenly call Hill's office phone at 7:30 on Saturday morning, October 9th? Could it be that nearly two decades had mellowed Thomas's feelings towards Hill's damning testimony at her husband's Supreme Court confirmation hearing? Nope. In 2007 Justice Thomas published a memoir describing Hill as "my most traitorous adversary." Shortly thereafter, Ms. Thomas "told an interviewer that Ms. Hill should apologize." 


More likely, Thomas and/or her handlers sought to create a diversion. Funny coincidence: the very morning of the voicemail, the New York Times published "Activism of Thomas's Wife Could Raise Judicial Issues," which asks whether it isn't kind of problematic for a U.S. Supreme Court Justice's wife to start a Tea Party-linked organization "dedicated to opposing what she characterizes as the leftist 'tyranny' of President Obama and Democrats in Congress" -- and then go dialing for donors in her capacity as its leader. It's reasonable to expect that individuals and corporations might throw money at the spouse of someone so influential -- or that she might reveal those names to him. But the organization's 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax status allows it to conceal its funding sources. So there's no telling who first helped Liberty Central open its doors in late 2009 with two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000, or who's paying Thomas's salary now -- in short, whether there's a potential conflict of interest.


So changing the subject may have seemed like a very good idea that morning. And what better opportunity for the Thomases to play offense about their persecution at the hands of the media and the tyrannical left than by resurrecting their gripe with Hill?


If that was the plan, it didn't work because Hill didn't bite. She sat on the voicemail for a week thinking it was a prank, then notified campus security, which alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It's not clear how this all came to ABC News' attention late yesterday, but that may prove to be quite a story too.


Who knows? Maybe this will be the oy vey of the week.


Read more posts from this round. See what the judges have to say. And cast your vote on Friday.

By Nancy Goldstein  |  October 20, 2010; 8:29 AM ET  | Category:  Blogging Challenge , Recurring Feature
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@Bilrux: My take on the answer to your question (if it wasn't a rhetorical one) is that Hill found the idea of Mrs Thomas telephoning her so absurd that she believed someone else had placed the call, left the message. For someone else to leave such a message would be harassment -- for Mrs Thomas to do so, also harassment, but with at least a conceivable motive other than simple malignity (and hence perhaps not a crime). "Can you find out who left this message? I don't want to be bothered by more nonsense like this" might have been Hill's request to campus security, who understandably punted the request to the FBI... given the players involved.

Posted by: Wondercat | October 25, 2010 3:38 PM
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Is Virginia Thomas' work a potential of conflict of interest for her husband? Or is the source of funding for Liberty Central the problem? Clarence Thomas made a million dollars (according to financials on between 12/06 ad 10/09 on book advance and royalties from Harper Collins. What to do with all that money? Set up a non-proft, donate anonomously and claim the deduction. Liberty Central was formed in Jan 10, based on anonymous donations of $500,000 and $50,000. So if Clarence Thomas donated anonomously to his wife's political lobying group, wouldn't that be the REAL conflict of interest?

Posted by: CKallen | October 24, 2010 3:19 PM
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I'd read this as a regular feature. She couldn't have picked a better example for her first "Oy Vey"

Posted by: QassiminCali | October 22, 2010 3:05 PM
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I'd love to see this as a regular feature. Oy Vey of the Day or Week. As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, a Senate campaign (and possible Presidential run) was destroyed a few years back by a "macaca moment." Today, we have macaca moments all the time and no one bats an eye. Perhaps Oy Vey of the Day could remid us that we should, in fact, be outraged by some things and that "a sense of outrage" is important to democracy.

Posted by: margotfriedman | October 20, 2010 3:57 PM
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Good points and good presentation. I like "Oy Vey of the Day", but it suggests it would be daily. Would it be?

Posted by: monicalee1 | October 20, 2010 3:22 PM
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Anita Hill took a polygraph administered by one of the top professionals in the field and passed.

Thomas was offered the same test but refused.

Posted by: republican_disaster | October 20, 2010 2:52 PM
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How about an Oy-Vey for Ms. Hill reporting Virginia Thomas' call to campus security, who then reported it to the FBI? There were no threats in Thomas' message. Is Anita Hill so self-righteous that she considers Thomas' request for conciliation a crime?

Posted by: bilrux | October 20, 2010 12:36 PM
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Good insight, well written. Tied a little issue to a big, national issue - the Tea Party. Nice work.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 20, 2010 12:23 PM
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I would look forward to reading a "Oy Vey of the Day" column on a regular basis.

You have a terrific hook there, Ms. Goldstein.

Hopefully, any second attempt at "Oy Vey-ing" will be shorter and pack more punch.

Posted by: cdr1 | October 20, 2010 10:57 AM
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Oy Vey indeed!

I can't believe the gall of Virginia Thomas. Thankfully Anita Thomas stood tall again. And hopefully she knows we're all still standing with her.

I saw a "I believe Anita Thomas" button a while back being sold. Never thought I would need to use it. Should have bought it!

Posted by: veronicaeye | October 20, 2010 10:35 AM
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I just heard the story on NPR. Jaw-dropping or gobsmacked, as the English would say. What was she thinking? Your theory, that it was to pull attention away from the NYT story, is intriguing.
By the way, I think Oy Vey of the Day is a great idea for a regular column.

Still shaking my head....

Posted by: lorraine6 | October 20, 2010 10:31 AM
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Yes, I'd want to see this as a regular feature. If the author made it shorter and punchier, it'd be a must-read.

Posted by: MsJS | October 20, 2010 9:22 AM
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