When it comes to media coverage of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the rules have always been very different from that of other judicial figures. Yesterday’s front page feature in the Sunday New York Times about Thomas and his various associations with rich people is the sort of thing that one simply cannot imagine being written or published about anyone else on the high court.
The piece is a 2,800-word insinuation about ethical violations that are never spelled out. Reporter Mike McIntire was sent out on a fishing expedition looking for juicy material about this liberal bête noire and clearly came up empty. But instead of spiking the story, the Times (whose new editor Jill Abramson’s career was made via slanders of Thomas) printed it anyway.
The worst allegation in the piece is that Thomas may have helped persuade a wealthy donor to contribute to the building of a museum about the culture of poor Gullah-speaking African-Americans along the Georgia coast where the jurist grew up. Federal judges aren’t supposed to do fundraising even for charity but the code has never applied to the Supreme Court and even if it did, McIntire has no real proof of Thomas specifically conducting an “ask” for the Pin Point museum.
And that’s the most substantive allegation in the article. Everything else is mere conjecture and insinuation intended to give readers the idea that Thomas is unethical and conflicted. Except there are no instances of conflicts of interest and no ethical violations reported in the story. Liberal justices like Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg associate with rich people, travel to give speeches and attend liberal think tank events the same way Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia go to ones run by conservatives. The idea that the votes of either faction on the court are up for sale is absurd.
But you don’t have to be an investigative reporter to understand the motivation behind this article. Liberals have always treated Thomas as traitor to his race because he is a black conservative Republican. That has meant that Thomas is the sort of person about whom anything can be said. It is true that he may not have been the most qualified person in the land at the time of his appointment but the same can be said of a number of his liberal colleagues on the court. But, unlike other judges, his personal destruction has always been the goal of the political left. Switch the name and the political affiliation of the subject of this hit piece and you have a story that would never have been assigned, let alone published by the Times.