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Behind the Right's Ultimate Power Couple: Clarence and Ginni Thomas

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Clarence Thomas is the Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was born on June 23, 1948, in Pin Point, Georgia where he grew up in extreme poverty.

Thomas is the second American of African descent to be on the high court. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 1991 to succeed Thurgood Marshall.

Thomas attended Yale Law School and later served in various legal positions, including as Assistant Attorney General of Missouri and Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Justice Thomas is considered by critics to be a partisan activist jurist and far-right conservative. He has generally been associated with the originalist and textualist approaches to interpreting the Constitution.

Throughout his tenure on the Court, Justice Thomas has participated in numerous landmark cases, including those involving the rolling back of civil rights, voting rights and affirmative action.

Thomas is married to Virginia "Ginni" Thomas who is a high-profile activist in far right politics and was a participant in the January 6th Insurrection to prevent the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Ginni Thomas has been a consultant to the Heritage Foundation. She is a founder and president of Liberty Central. She was a leader of the Tea Party movement as it opposed the Affordable Care Act. In 2011, 74 Democratic members of the House of Representatives wrote that Justice Thomas should recuse himself on cases regarding the Affordable Care Act because of "appearance of a conflict of interest" based on his wife's work.

Texts between Ginni Thomas and Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows show that she was repeatedly urging Meadows to overturn the election results and repeating conspiracy theories about ballot fraud.

In response, 24 Democratic members of the House of Representatives and the Senate demanded that Thomas recuse himself from cases related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol on the grounds that Ginni Thomas's involvement in such efforts raised questions about his impartiality.

An April 2022 Quinnipiac poll found that 52% of Americans agree that in light of Ginni Thomas's texts about overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election, Thomas should recuse himself from related cases.

It’s been reported that for over 20 years Thomas had been accepting lavish gifts from Nazi memorabilia collector Harlan Crow, a billionaire Texas real estate investor and prominent Republican donor, including a Bible, valued at $19,000, that once belonged to abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Recently ProPublica reported that Crow was giving Thomas luxury trips to the most exotic locations in the world with a combined value well over a million dollars.

Thomas did not disclose these vacations as was required. He also failed to disclose income to Ginni Thomas from conservative organizations.

Also, Thomas failed to disclose that one of Crow's companies bought the house that Thomas grew up in and where his mother still lives rent-free.

Furthermore, ProPublica recently reported that Crow had paid for private school tuition for Thomas's grandnephew, Mark Martin, of whom Thomas had legal custody. This too was undisclosed.

The Washington Post reported that in January 2012 conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo funneled funds to Ginni Thomas through Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway.

PBS Frontline has produced a documentary that investigates Clarence and Ginni Thomas and tells the story of their formative years, their unlikely romance and the minting of one of Washington D.C.’s most powerful couples.

The comprehensive and incisive two-hour special, Clarence and Ginni Thomas: Politics, Power and the Supreme Court, is premiering on PBS and streaming on PBS.org/frontline and YouTube on Tuesday, May 9 at 9/8c. The documentary is supported by Preserving Democracy, a public media reporting initiative from The WNET Group.


Michael Kirk producer of Clarence and Ginni Thomas: Politics, Power and the Supreme Court and Lies, Politics and Democracy; United States of Conspiracy

Kirk has produced more than 200 national television programs. A former Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, Kirk was the original senior producer of Frontline, PBS’ flagship long-form documentary series, from its inception in 1983 until the fall of 1987, when he created his own production company, the Kirk Documentary Group.

The winner of every major award in broadcast journalism, including four Peabody Awards, four DuPont-Columbia Awards, two George Polk Awards, 16 Emmy Awards, and 12 Writers Guild of America Awards, Kirk has produced, directed and written more than 100 hours of Frontline — including multiple installments of “The Choice,” the acclaimed election-year series profiling the two major-party presidential candidates.

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*This interview will be recorded on Tuesday, May 9.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi