Whether we agree with their decisions or not, there’s a sense of regality to the station of the U.S. Supreme Court that’s almost ethereal in scope: It’s as if its nine justices float just a few inches above the rest of us. But that aura comes with an expectation of honor and ethics befitting arguably the most powerful group of humans in the country.
Leave it to Clarence Thomas to toss all of that in the toilet.
Arguably the most disappointing public figure in Black American history, Thomas is once again in the news for alleged malfeasance, thanks to a damning ProPublica article released last week claiming he and his wife of 36 years, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, have benefited from luxury vacations and gifts on the dime of real estate investor and major GOP donor Harlan Crow for more than 20 years and counting.
Rich friends are great…I wish I had more of them. But the relationship with Crow and the Thomases feels so slimy that I need hazmat gloves to thumb through the facts.
The primary issue is that Thomas has never disclosed the trips to which Crow is said to have treated him, according to ProPublica. Justices are legally required to report gifts more than $415, including travel. As all of the Thomases paid vacations over the years – including an island-hopping trip to Indonesia involving private jets and Crow’s “superyacht,” the Michaela Rose, that might’ve hit them for close to half a million dollars – probably amount to a number with at least seven zeroes at the back, that’s a hell of a lot of nondisclosure.
There’s also the issue of Crow’s general political proclivities: He’s donated more dough to conservative, anti-tax, pro-court reform causes than your average mid-tier rapper will make in their entire career, including $500,000 to a conservative political advocacy group that Ginni founded.
On Crow’s sponsored trips, Thomas rubbed elbows and smoked cigars with Republican donors, Fortune 500 executives, at least one conservative think tank leader and possibly a slew of other people with a vested interest in further disenfranchising the disenfranchised.
Thomas defended his actions Friday, suggesting that he was “advised” that the vacations, yachting and gifts were all good as long as Crow had no business before the court. Crow also issued a statement saying that he never attempted to influence Thomas, and that he never witnessed any of his rich friends do the same.
We, the discerning public, are expected to believe that, in all the clandestine moments in the secret clubs, on the private resorts and during the lengthy overseas luxury jet trips, not one ethically murky conversation ever happened in two-plus decades. The problem is that, if Thomas were doing what he was supposed to, we wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Unsurprisingly, prominent Democrats have called for Thomas’ impeachment and a reformed code of ethics for the judiciary.
Mind-blowing though the report might be in a bubble, none of it should come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to the rank ridiculousness the Thomases have been on for years.
Only the second Black person ever appointed to the high court, Thomas came out the gate on a wave of controversy in the early 1990s thanks to Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexually harassing her when she was his advisor as chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her congressional testimony was a media sensation in the nascent days of the internet and well before Twitter was a thing. It was also an early cautionary tale on how men in power treat women who level such accusations.
While those of us old enough to remember the Hill debacle will forever associate Thomas with it, he’s done plenty to polarize younger generations by backing the worst adjudications to come out of the Supreme Court in the last 30 years. As a Black man born in the Jim Crow South, Thomas has the unmitigated gall to oppose affirmative action practices that he most certainly benefited from as an attendee of Yale Law School in the 1970s. It’s the equivalent of Killmonger ingesting the heart-shaped herb and ordering the rest of it burned so no one else can become the Black Panther.
For my money, the worst vote Thomas made was to overturn Roe v. Wade, killing a half century of federal protections allowing women to have control of their own bodies. He took the opportunity to ride that amber wave of discrimination by suggesting that the Supreme Court should reconsider same-sex marriage and contraception rights as well. Because if he must go home to Ginni, everyone else should be miserable as well.
Speaking of Ginni Thomas, she took White privilege into sixth gear by allegedly attempting to sway nearly 30 Republican lawmakers in Arizona to tamper with the Electoral College vote during the 2020 presidential election, which would’ve provided Donald Trump with that key swing state despite its popular vote for Joe Biden.
In fact, Ginni was among the more prominent souls spewing unfounded conspiracy theories regarding Biden’s “theft” of the election, which is probably the last thing the wife of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice should be seen doing…not that she was hiding it. Ginni denied discussing any of her efforts to hijack the election with her husband. But if you believe that, I have a few timeshare opportunities I’d like to discuss with you.
Trump attempted to use his presidency to block the House’s Select Committee on the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack from obtaining records that included texts from Ginni urging then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to overturn the 2020 election results. The Supreme Court voted to refuse Trump’s attempts.
One guess who was the only of the nine Supreme Court justices to dissent from that decision.
I’d love to believe that the letter of the law could get the modern-day Uncle Ruckus up outta the Supreme Court for good, but I’m sure that Thomas will never abnegate his seat, and it’s apparently absurdly tough to impeach a SCOTUS justice – it’s only been done once, 219 years ago.
So, the vacations will continue, cigars will be smoked and we’ll all let out a collective “ugh” as we watch the Court’s resident originalist continue sucking on the teat of someone whose photo might as well sit next to “The Man” in the dictionary. And it’ll just be that way until The Big Impeachment in the Sky finally comes for Thomas.