Woman accuses Clarence Thomas of groping her in 1999

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Story highlights

  • Moira Smith says Justice Clarence Thomas groped her in 1999
  • Smith made the allegation on Facebook earlier this month
  • Thomas says the "claim is preposterous and it never happened"

Washington (CNN)A woman has accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of groping her in 1999, when she met him as a young Truman Foundation Scholar at a dinner party in Falls Church, Virginia.

On October 7, Moira Smith posted on Facebook -- her account is now deactivated -- that Thomas groped her at her boss' dinner party when she was 23. "He groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit 'right next to him,'" Smith wrote, according to the post as reported by the National Law Journal.
    The Supreme Court declined to comment to CNN, pointing to a Thomas statement it provided the National Law Journal: "This claim is preposterous and it never happened."
    Smith, who is now vice president and general counsel to Enstar Natural Gas Co., did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN. Laura Fink, a friend and former roommate of Smith, issued a statement to CNN on behalf of Smith saying that she stands by her allegations.
    "I choose to speak out now in the hope that this will change; that my daughter will live never having to experience these wrongs, and so that both my children might experience a world where no one is above reproach or justice," Smith wrote in the statement.

    Smith's accusation

    Smith wrote about her experience on Facebook in the wake of Donald Trump's 2005 hot mic conversation -- which was leaked the day she published her post -- where the Republican nominee bragged about being able to grope women because he is a celebrity.
    "Donald Trump said when you're a star, they let you do it; you can do anything," Smith told the National Law Journal. "The idea that we as victims let them do it made me mad. Sure enough, Justice Thomas did it with I think an implicit pact of silence that I would be so flattered and star-struck and surprised that I wouldn't say anything. I played the chump. I didn't say anything."
    Smith recounted her story to National Law Journal about the night with Thomas. She said she was alone with him at one point during the dinner party, which is when he groped her.
    "I was setting the place to his right when he reached out, sort of cupped his hand around my butt and pulled me pretty close to him," Smith said in the interview. "He said, 'Where are you sitting?' and gave me a squeeze. I said, 'I'm sitting down at the garden table.' He said, 'I think you should sit next to me,' giving me squeezes. I said, 'Well, Mr. Blair is pretty particular about his seating chart.' I tried to use the seating chart as a pretext for refusing. He one more time squeezed my butt and he said, 'Are you sure?' I said yes, and that was the end of it."
    Three of Smith's former housemates during the spring and summer of 1999 each verified in interviews with the National Law Journal that they remember Smith telling them about Thomas groping her.
    And another Truman scholar, who Smith married and later divorced, told the publication that he "definitely remembered" her telling about the experience.
    Three dinner guests said they had no prior knowledge about Thomas inappropriately touching Smith.
    Louis Blair, the then-head of the Truman Foundation and Smith's boss at the time, said he found the allegation "shocking." He questioned whether Thomas would ever be alone with a dinner guest.
    Smith posed for a photo with Thomas after the dinner and said she remembered feeling "conflicted" about it.
    "On the one hand, I really liked Justice Thomas," she told the National Law Journal. "He was clearly smart, engaging, and hilarious -- he had a booming and totally infectious laugh. On the other hand, I was so confused about what had happened. It had transgressed such a line."
    Thomas is marking 25 years on the bench this month. He appeared at an event at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Wednesday and appeared in a jovial mood and his wife, Virginia, was in the audience.
    There have been no similar allegations against Thomas since Anita Hill, who claimed during the justice's 1991 Senate confirmation hearings that Thomas sexually harassed her verbally when she worked for him at the US Department of Education and again when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas denied Hill's testimony.
    Two people close to Thomas defended the justice, both saying Smith is accusing Thomas because she is a Democrat.
    "This is the latest in those attacks from a person who, as the Law.com story makes clear, is a Democratic partisan, having contributed to Democratic candidates and worked as a staffer for a Democratic elected official," Mark Paoletta, who worked on Thomas' confirmation, told CNN in a statement.
    A former female clerk of Thomas also said in post published in the National Review that Smith's accusation "bears no resemblance to the man I worked closely with."
    "These implausible allegations come from a partisan Democrat who is married to a partisan Democrat who previously withdrew from a political race after his own campaign was mired in allegations of dirty tricks," Carrie Severino wrote. "I look forward to the day when the Left has had enough of trying to destroy this worthy and admirable man."
    Smith is married to Jake Metcalfe, a former chairman of the Alaska Democratic Party. In 2008, he withdrew from a primary campaign for Congress after his campaign was linked to fake, derogatory websites about another candidate.