Clarence And Ginni Thomas Giddily Screw The Nation Like Honeymooners
While I was reading the New York Times Magazine profile on autocratic power couple of the year Clarence and Ginni Thomas, I was reminded of this People Magazine cover from 1991.
I remember this cover well. If my mother or one of my aunts saw it on the magazine rack while paying for groceries, they’d be mad for the rest of the day. It was bad enough that Clarence Thomas was taking a post Supreme Court confirmation victory lap, but now we had to hear from Ginni Thomas, like anyone wanted to know what was on her mind. The photo on the cover was apparently the least awkward of the ones they’d taken, and above their smug faces was this treacle: “Virginia Thomas Tells Her Story.” My mother just grunted, but my Aunt Emma would yell at the magazine, “No one wants to hear your story!”
“How We Survived” hovered above the Thomases, like they were victims somehow or, even worse, heroes.
The cover copy read:
The wife of Clarence Thomas describes the “hell” of the hearings, her own experience with sexual harassment and her belief that Anita Hill was “probably in love with my husband."
Ginni Thomas is free to think all the sick shit she wants, but People magazine shouldn’t have promoted her scorned woman smears of Anita Hill. That’s beneath the integrity of the publication that has for decades now correctly identified the world’s sexiest man. As my mother said: “Just because she married that fool doesn’t mean anyone else wants him.”
It’s such a bizarre theory anyway. Even if Hill were a part of some liberal plot to destroy George H.W. Bush’s affirmative action pick, isn’t it sufficient motivation that Thomas was a rightwing hack who opposed everything Hill believed? Ginni Thomas insisted on making it all Fatal Attraction (although she’s the one who’d end up stalking Hill).
Ginni Thomas also grossly presented herself as a true victim of past sexual harassment, unlike Anita Hill who made it all up. Maybe in her world, everyone’s actually in love with their harasser except for her. It must be lonely.
That 1991 People magazine cover was actually controversial in my hometown because the Thomases, while good conservatives, were still an interracial couple. Ginni Thomas didn’t grow up on some hippie commune, either. Her mother, Marjorie Lamp, was a conservative activist who helped Phyllis Schlafly fight the Equal Rights Amendment. (In 1960, Schlafly led a conservative revolt against a Republican platform that opposed segregation and racial discrimination in voting and housing.) Lamp was a 1976 Reagan delegate who didn’t care for incumbent President Gerald Ford’s leadership. She believed if Jimmy Carter won “we’d be heading toward socialism.” Conservatives just keep playing that same song.
Ginni Thomas was in the middle of deprogramming from her ill-fated membership in the Lifespring group when she met Clarence in 1986 at a conference on affirmative action, which they both opposed, of course. They married a year later, although I tend to advise waiting at least three years after you've left a cult. Despite their common interests, they were an unlikely match, especially considering Ginni’s background.
“There’s no other way to politely say this, but the fact she married a Black man must’ve caused an uproar in that family, I can’t even imagine,” said Scott Bange, who dated Ginni in high school. In 1991, one of Ginni Thomas’s aunts told The Washington Post that the future justice “was so nice, we forgot he was Black,” adding, “He treated her so well, all of his other qualities made up for his being Black.”
These are the people Clarence Thomas prefers to spend his time around, and that’s entirely his business. According to the Times profile, the Thomases just plain feel more comfortable in white rural America than in ethnically diverse cities.
There are still people who have faith in the country and what it stands for, but it was on the road and beyond the East Coast elites that the couple found those Americans, at least in Justice Thomas’s telling. “My bride and I, Virginia, we were R.V.ing in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. And we noticed something there,” he said. “The large number of flags of people who still believe in the ideal of this country, in an environment when there’s so much criticism, antagonism, and actually people with disdain for the very same. It was very interesting to be with regular people for three weeks.” Here, far from Washington, far from the news media, far from “the interest groups,” far from anyone who recognized him at all, was where he — where they — were at home.
This is such bullshit that Clarence Thomas is spinning. He seriously suggests that there’s “optimism” and “faith in America” among people who overwhelmingly believe the last election was stolen by Hugo Chavez’s ghost? Did he note how many of those flags he sees flying bear Donald Trump’s name or read “Let’s Go Brandon”? How many of those flags were from the goddamn Confederacy?
Thomas should check out his own wife’s Facebook page if he wants a glimpse at “criticism,” “antagonism” and “disdain.” Ginni ranted in 2018 about how persecuted she felt when she saw “rainbow flags throughout businesses, sending powerful, subtle messages to all the customers that ‘We’re the kind, decent, compassionate, tolerant people, until the Republican evil conservatives show up, and those are all automatically hateful people.’” And her veterinarian even oppresses her with signs in their office that state “Spread Kindness,” "Build Community,” and "Hate Is Not Welcome Here.” She could at least try not being hateful but she boldly rejects the tyranny of compassion.
The Thomases wrap their mutual contempt for America — the actual America that has cities, feminists, and gay people — in some nostalgic, backwards-looking "patriotism.” You’d also feel sorry for them if they weren’t so dangerous.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."