Cause of Wright's termination disputed

October 13, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- Judge Clarence Thomas said yesterday that he fired Angela D. Wright, the second woman who has accused him of making sexual advances, after she referred to a fellow staff member at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a "faggot."

"I summarily dismissed her," Mr. Thomas told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also charged that Ms. Wright was ineffective in her post.

Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., said that Ms. Wright -- who had been expected to testify today or tomorrow -- was now "totally bTC discredited" and had "cold feet" about appearing before the panel. Mr. Simpson made clear that Ms. Wright would face rough going if she testified.

But Ms. Wright's attorney, Gil Middlebrooks, quoted her as saying, "I am ready to testify before the committee, and I do not have cold feet."

Ms. Wright was on a list of 15 witnesses released yesterday morning by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But at day's end, Democrats had not decided whether they would call her. If they do, the Republicans want the right to call rebuttal witnesses.

Mr. Middlebrooks refused to discuss the allegation that Ms. Wright called a co-worker at the EEOC a "faggot."

Ms. Wright, an assistant metro politan editor at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, has acknowledged being fired by Mr. Thomas. But Ms. Wright said that Mr. Thomas told her it was because she was not aggressive enough in firing senior EEOC staff members.

When a Charlotte Observer editor called Mr. Thomas in 1990 for a job reference, Mr. Thomas said Ms. Wright was "an excellent employee" who "worked very well under stress," according to notes taken by Mary Newsom, the newspaper's special projects editor.

Current and former EEOC officials interviewed in recent days said that Ms. Wright was dismissed because she was considered incompetent and mishandled the preparations for a major press conference while she served as the EEOC's director of public affairs.

None of the officials mentioned said that Ms. Wright had called anyone a "faggot."

Ms. Wright, 37, has charged that Mr. Thomas made "unwelcome and inappropriate" sexual remarks to her, asked the size of her breasts and appeared at her Washington apartment one night uninvited.

A friend and co-worker of Ms. Wright's said in an interview Friday that Ms. Wright confided in her at the time of their employment at the EEOC that Mr. Thomas had made sexual advances. Rose Jourdain, now a speech writer at the National Education Association, said that Ms. Wright frequently complained about Mr. Thomas' behavior.

Friends of Ms. Wright's said that the assaults on her integrity were unfortunate and rallied to defend her.

"I believe Angela. They can attack her all they want. They're attacking someone they do not know," said Russell Davis, an attorney who attended high school with Ms. Wright.

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