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Monday, June 12, 2023
As Thomas Scandals Pile Up, MRC Stays In Defend-And-Delfect Mode
Topic: Media Research Center

After ProPublica reported in April about Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas' lavish but undisclosed vacations funded by right-wing billionaire Harlan Crow, the Media Research Center slowly came to his defense. That round culminated with an April 22 post by Tim Graham repeating a Wall Street Journal writer accusing ProPublica of "comically incompetent reporting," though Graham didn't cite any specific instances of it.

Alex Christy defended Republicans portraying Thomas as a victim in a May 2 post complaining that "Washington Post associate editor Ruth Marcus joined Tuesday’s edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC to talk about the day’s Senate hearing on 'ethics reform' and to claim that “any reasonable person” should conclude it is 'all so really disturbing' that Republicans played clips of Clarence Thomas in his 1991 confirmation hearing talking about a 'high-tech lynching,'" going on to declare that "In a serious world, MSNBC would ask why all these concerns about the Court and ethics are going after conservative justices and not liberal ones, but Marcus isn’t a serious person." The following day, Christy groused: "In the latest attempt to create phony Supreme Court scandals, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle used Tuesday’s The 11th Hour to wonder why John Roberts’s wife is allowed to make money, why Clarence Thomas is allowed to have rich friends, and why Neil Gorusch is allowed to sell property to Democrats."

Meanwhile, the Thomas scandals continued to pile up: ProPublica went on to reveal not only that Crow bought property from Thomas that included the house where Thomas' mother lives, which received major renovations, but also that Crow paid the pricey private-school tuition for Thomas' grandnephew, whom Thomas was raising. Both of these benefits, like the luxury vacations, were never listed on Thomas' financial disclosure forms. So the MRC entered a new round of defense. Christy grumbled in a May 4 post:

As the cast of Thursday’s Morning Joe discussed the latest non-scandal involving Justice Clarence Thomas, co-host Joe Scarborough condemned what he saw as conservative hypocrisy, declaring that if Thomas were Justice Sonia Sotomayor the reaction would be very different. He said this as Sotomayor faces ethical questions of her own.

Everyone on the panel uncritically accepted the premise that Harlan Crow, who does not have business before the Court, paying for Thomas’s disadvantaged great nephew’s tuition for one year, including fellow co-host Mika Brzezinski, “And Joe, once again, it’s really hard not to see how this Supreme Court justice was not exposed to being -- to having his objectivity impacted. Let's just say it kindly. By all the gifts over the course of decades by a Republican donor.”

Christy then played whataboutism by bringing up how"Sotomayor declined to recuse herself from a case involving Penguin Random House after receiving $3.6 million from the publisher despite fellow liberal Justice Stephen Breyer did recusing himself in the same case for also taking money from the company" -- even though that's not in the same league as hiding massive support from a right-wing billionaire.

Christy tried to minimize Crow's funding of Thomas' relative in another post that day:

Former CNN legal analyst and infamous Zoom masturbator Jeffrey Toobin returned to the network on Thursday to promote his new book on Timothy McVeigh, but also to pile on Justice Clarence Thomas for being unethical and the rest of the Supreme Court for allegedly putting themselves “above the law.”

Co-host Kaitlin Collins began by reading a statement from the office of Thomas friend Harland Crow that decried the attempt to portray the effort to provide tuition assistance to disadvantaged youth as something nefarious. Crow had paid for Thomas’s great nephew’s tuition for one year at a private school and another at a Georgia boarding school.

Still, Collins tried to turn the molehill into a mountain, “Not a denial from Harlan Crow and this seems pretty far outside the norm when it comes to these payments.”

Christy went on to insist that "Harlan Crow does not have business before the Court," which was not quite true.

Nicholas Fondacaro played the Sotomayor whataboutism card in his own May 4 post:

Continuing with the high-tech lynching of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas first launched during his confirmation hearings in 1991, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today show picked at the red meat thrown by left-wing ProPublica at the liberal media on supposed ethics violations on Thursday. Meanwhile, they showed no interest in a new bombshell report that liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor presided over cases that involved her book publisher who paid her $3.6 million.

Again, faliure to recuse over alleged conflict of interest and failure to report a massive amount of financial support from a partisan billionaire are two very different things.

Christy returned for yet another May 4 post while denying a more apt comparison to Thomas:

MSNBC legal analyst Barbara McQuade joined Ana Cabrera Reports on Thursday to discuss the latest ginned up controversy surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas where she demanded that he either resign or be impeached despite admitting there “does not appear that there is any evidence that” Thomas’s friend Harlan Crow has influenced any of his decisions.

Cabrera asked McQuade why Thomas would disclose a gift from one friend for his great nephew’s tuition, but not Crow, “Why report one but not the other? What does that indicate to you?”


McQuade then reached for an historical comparison, “Abe Fortas resigned from the Court over far less than this, and I think it's time that Justice Thomas do the same.”

That’s a ridiculous statement. According to National Review, Fortas accepted money from a man who was in trouble with the feds--Crow is not—and was ultimately convicted of securities fraud. Worse, Fortas was giving legal advice to President Lyndon Johnson while sitting on the bench.

After hopefully getting some sleep, Christy pounded out a May 5 post whining that it was pointed out that conservatives would not be defending Sotomayor the way they are Thomas if she had committed the same offense (then again played Sotomayor whataboutism):

It was impossible to tell the difference between NBC’s allegedly straight newsman Chuck Todd and MSNBC’s Joy Reid as they both wondered what the GOP’s reaction would be if Justice Clarence Thomas was Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Harlan Crow were George Soros. Ignoring questions around Sotomayor was a theme for MSNBC on Thursday.

On the streaming platform NBC News NOW, Todd used the days Meet the Press NOW to urge viewers to “Just ask yourself this. Imagine the reaction from those same very senators if a liberal justice was accused of taking money from a donor, oh, let's say George Soros, and he was paying the tuition of, say, the niece of Sonia Sotomayor. Ask yourself what the reaction would be.”


While the controversy surrounding Sotomayor and Random House is not a perfect analogue to Thomas and Crow, there is a compelling case to be made that what Sotomayor did is worse. Crow has never had business before the Court while Random House has. Yet, despite this Republicans are not running around claiming Sotomayor is irredeemably corrupt.

Of course, by using Sotomayor as his whataboutism go-to to distract from Thomas, Christy is effectively doing exactly that.

Fondacaro branded all criticism of Thomas as "racist":

With left-wing ProPublica launching a coordinated attack on conservative Justice Clarence Thomas via faux ethics scandals, the liberal ladies of ABC’s The View pounced, on Friday. Particularly, staunchly racist co-host Sunny Hostin was irritated that Republicans would dare call out the racist nature of the attacks Thomas had been subjected to since his nomination to the position in 1991.


Justice Thomas has been the target of racist attacks from the left for decades, including from The View

Fondacaro didn't explain why Thomas' lucrative financial relationship with Crow wouldn't look bad if Thomas was a different race. Nor did he explain with whom ProPublica had made this "coordinated attack" on Thomas. (And remember, Fondacaro thinks Hostin is "racist" because he doesn't understand how metaphors work.)

Christy hammered that Sotomayor whataboutism narrative yet again in a time-count post:

The cable networks of CNN and MSNBC spent a good portion of Thursday obsessing over a ProPublica report that Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose friend Harlan Crow paying for his-great nephew's tuition while simultaneously downplaying—and in MSNBC's case, completely ignoring— reports that Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not recuse herself from a case involving the publishing company Random House despite it paying her $3.6 million. 

A study of CNN and MSNBC coverage from 6 am to midnight on Thursday found the two networks had quite a disparity in coverage:

Thomas: 2 hours, 16 minutes and 54 seconds

Sotomayor: 1 minute, 42 seconds. 

Simplified down, that is 80.5 seconds on Thomas for every one second spent on Sotomayor. The 102 seconds on Sotomayor were exclusively on CNN. MSNBC had zero on Sotomayor.

Christy, however, didn't take the time to figure out how much time Fox News spent on each of those stories, which would be more illuminating and relevant from a research standpoint.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:00 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2023 2:41 PM EDT

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