In recent weeks there have been numerous reports detailing the profoundly disturbing legal and ethical breaches by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. It paints a picture of a Justice deeply mired in schemes to enrich himself with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts from a right-wing billionaire with interests before the Court.
The investigative work by ProPublica is thorough and well documented. It reveals that Thomas took luxury vacations provided by Harlan Crow, and sold real estate to him for inflated values. And as incriminating as all of the evidence was, Fox News conspicuously avoided any substantive reporting on it.
And that wasn’t the only time that Fox News purposefully suppressed a story about the improprieties of Thomas and his family.
As this story developed and expanded, Fox has been continuing to downplay the criminal and ethical aspects of it. On Sunday Fox’s Senior Trump-Fluffer, Maria Bartiromo, interviewed Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah. and from the outset of the interview it was clear how she wanted to frame the story.
Bartiromo: Let me get your take on these attacks against Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court…your reaction to what’s taken place to the Supreme Court.
Lee: This is absolutely dreadful. this is an attack on Justice Thomas, a good man. a good man who has risen from poverty in the Jim Crow South to a position where he is one of the most respected jurists in our nation’s history. They don’t like that. They don’t like the fact that he has the audacity to be conservative as a Black man. […] There’s not one allegation they’ve raised against him that reveals any impropriety, any wrongdoing, any violation of any law, any rule, or ethical principle.
Mike Lee on Fox News dismisses Clarence Thomas's corruption: "This is an attack on Justice Thomas … they don't like the fact that he has the audacity to be conservative as a Black man." pic.twitter.com/AV6n4Dy1gq
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 7, 2023
Bartiromo’s first question literally coached the response from Lee, asking him to comment, not on the crimes or the controversy, but on “these attacks against Clarence Thomas.” And Lee took the prompting and elaborated on it in the most brazenly dishonest manner. He completely ignored every allegation against Thomas, who he described as “a good man” despite the proof of his improper conduct.
Lee sought to deflect from the charges against Thomas by attributing them to alleged racism on the part of Democrats. Never mind that there is absolutely no evidence supporting that contrived excuse. And even if there were it wouldn’t absolve Thomas of his blatant wrongdoing. By Lee’s reasoning Black conservatives should have a free pass to commit any crimes they want with impunity.
Lee went on to say that Democrats “are doing this to attack the legitimacy of the Supreme Court so they can reimage the Supreme Court according to their own preferences.” So in one respect he’s accepting that Thomas’ actions diminish the legitimacy of the Court. But more to the point, he’s forgiving Thomas and embracing the Court’s illegitimacy as acceptable. Lee is also forgetting that it was Republicans who improperly “reimage[d] the Supreme Court” by manipulating the confirmation process to deny Democrats their right to fill vacancies on the Court.
It’s astonishing how Fox News and Lee can pretend that the issue here is political criticism of a conservative Black Justice, when the evidence of Thomas’ violations of the law and ethics are so obvious. But this is what Fox News does. They are committed to exonerating right-leaning criminals, whether they are insurrections, tax cheats, rapists, or Supreme Court Justices. Because to Fox News, political ideology “Trumps” principles. And this was recognized poignantly last year by Jon Stewart…
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