Skip to content
Home » ProPublica’s bombshell report about Clarence Thomas and other links for your weekend review

ProPublica’s bombshell report about Clarence Thomas and other links for your weekend review

We start today with a very troubling and explosive story from ProPublica’s Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott and Alex Mierjeski: “Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire.”

The story reports that for more than 20 years, the Supreme Court justice has been treated to luxury vacations by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow, and Thomas has not reported these gifts as required by law. One retired federal judge said, “It’s incomprehensible to me that someone would do this.”

ProPublica’s reporters write, “A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet. He has gone with Crow to the Bohemian Grove, the exclusive California all-male retreat, and to Crow’s sprawling ranch in East Texas. And Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks. The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Reaction was swift and strong.

New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “This is beyond party or partisanship. This degree of corruption is shocking — almost cartoonish. Thomas must be impeached. Barring some dramatic change, this is what the Roberts court will be known for: rank corruption, erosion of democracy, and the stripping of human rights.”

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted, “This is outrageous. I don’t care if you agree with Thomas’s politics. Congress cannot allow for judges to so brazenly flout conflict of interest rules. It’s time to pass the Supreme Court Ethics Act. It’s unacceptable that there is no enforceable code of conduct for the court.”

Murphy also tweeted, “Important for news media to not simply label this guy as a ‘GOP mega donor’. It’s so much worse. Crow has many interests before the Supreme Court. His groups file petitions before the court. It’s the clearest, most brazen violation of judicial ethics you can imagine.”

New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer tweeted, “This is why public trust in the Supreme Court is cratering.”

As far as the story itself, NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny tweeted, “I’m going to tweet this story all day. It’s the perfect story, perfectly reported. (So many photos and they tracked down the workers on the yacht!) And written in a style that makes what could be a dry story an absolutely must-read.”

And Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted, “A kind of dream attribution sentence when you know you have the goods… ‘interviews with dozens of people ranging from his superyacht’s staff to members of the secretive Bohemian Club to an Indonesian scuba diving instructor.’”

And now onto other media news, tidbits and links for your weekend review …

  • My Poynter colleague Kelly McBride, who also is NPR’s public editor and has proven she will take on NPR when necessary, weighs in on Twitter labeling NPR as “US state-affiliated media” in “Everything about Twitter is meaningless.” McBride writes, “No one in their right mind could legitimately argue that NPR is an arm of the U.S. government.” She adds, “I serve as NPR’s Public Editor and can declare without reservation that whenever NPR falls short, it’s because the decision-making process fails, not because its journalists are doing the government’s bidding. In fact, most people in favor of Twitter keeping the state-affiliated media label seem to be arguing that NPR has a political agenda, which it does not. But even if it did, having a political agenda would make a newsroom party-affiliated, not state-affiliated.”
  • As we approach the trial in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News, The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg with “How Fox Chased Its Audience Down the Rabbit Hole.” I found this paragraph from Rutenberg to be particularly interesting: “For most of my career as a reporter, I’ve been tracing Fox’s long journey to a dividing line: On one side, journalism, constitutionally protected, even in its nastiest, most slanted and ideological form as part of the brutal scrum of democracy. On the other side, knowing lies, reckless disregard for the truth — the ‘actual malice’ that is at the heart of the Dominion case. The court will decide if Fox crossed that line. But the newly available records show what drove Fox, and its powerful founder, to the very edge of that line, if not beyond: an audience that has reliably delivered influence and profits for decades. Now, in the age of social media and powerfully attractive disinformation campaigns, that audience could instantly move on to even headier stuff from even more adventurous competitors.”
  • Outstanding investigative work from The Washington Post’s Gus Garcia-Roberts and Molly Hensley-Clancy regarding allegedly troubling behavior from NBA star Ja Morant as well as local authorities assigned to investigate the behavior in “In Memphis, Ja Morant’s summer of trouble went unchecked by authorities.”
  • The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona with “MSNBC Host Makes Matt Taibbi Squirm Over His ‘Twitter Files’ Errors.”
  • A special report from Reuters’ Steve Stecklow, Waylon Cunningham and Hyunjoo Jin: “Tesla workers shared sensitive images recorded by customer cars.”
  • Well-deserved congratulations to Claire Smith, winner of the 2023 Red Smith Award, regarded as the highest sports journalism honor in the country. The award, given annually by the Associated Press Sports Editors, recognizes major contributions to sports journalism. Smith is the first African American woman to win the award. Smith mostly wrote about baseball in her career, working at several major newspapers, including The Hartford Courant, The New York Times, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She said in a statement, “There always has to be a first before you hand the baton, and when I see how many women are taking on the task of being great sports writers and editors, women of color, and Latin American women … it’s just heartening. I’m just so proud to be in their company. To be recognized and be in such great company … I certainly know I won’t be the last. We know there’s no crying in baseball, but there’s crying in my car today.” The award has been given out every year since 1981 and past winners include Frank Deford, Dan Jenkins, Sally Jenkins, Dick Schaap, of course, the first winner Red Smith — the legendary Pulitzer Prize winner whose career spanned from the late 1920s until the early 1980s.
  • Slate’s Jim Newell writes about a battle over the FBI between Maryland and Virginia in “Inside the Cattiest Fight in D.C.”
  • For Nieman Lab, Bill Kovarik with “Reporting isn’t espionage — but throughout history, journalists have been accused of being spies.”
  • The New York Times’ Benjamin Mullin with “No More Hush Money at National Enquirer, Its New Owner Says.”
  • Mediaite’s Aidan McLaughlin with “Sean Spicer Exits Newsmax.”
  • Politico’s Jack Shafer with “The Trump Cable News Coverage Was Good, Actually.”
  • For Jezebel, Laura Bassett with “Gender Fluid Teen Pushes Back Against ‘False’ Viral Story Their Mom Gave to Conservative Outlet.”
  • The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz with “Masters allowing 9/11 ‘sportswashing’ to continue by taking LIV golfers.”
  • For The Ringer, Corbin Reiff with “The Curious Love Affair Between Jason Isbell and America’s Sportswriters.”

Finally today, here’s something from my Poynter colleague Barbara Allen:

Poynter’s Beat Academy webinar series on climate change kicked off Thursday. Attendees got a heaping plate of wisdom, advice and resources from scientists, journalists and activists on how to localize global warming in their own backyards.

“Everybody acknowledges that polar bears are struggling with climate change,” said panelist Ed Maibach of George Mason University. “But until quite recently, people didn’t see themselves in the equation. They didn’t see the ways in which climate change had touched their lives.”

Journalists can help make that crystal clear, panelists agreed, and they can get help from the many organizations now devoted to connecting journalists with climate change resources.

Take for example GMU’s Center for Climate Change Communication, whose projects like Climate Change in the American Mind and Climate Matters: Helping TV weathercasters and journalists report local climate change stories provide great starting points for local journalists.

There’s also a variety of work journalists can use at Climate Central, an independent group of scientists and communicators who research and report facts about climate change — like the Climate Shift Index, which reveals the influence of climate change on local weather, and Partnership Journalism, in which scientists and journalists collaborate to disseminate quality information.

You can read more about the session here, or sign up to watch a replay and attend future webinars.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!