'Political campaign designed to smear': Ted Cruz defends Clarence Thomas

'Political campaign designed to smear': Ted Cruz defends Clarence Thomas
Image via screengrab.

In 1996, the nation’s most respected Black-owned magazine called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “a person who has done so much to turn back the clock on civil rights, all the way back to the pre-Civil War lawn jockey days.”

It published several highly-controversial, racist covers to pound home that point.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) unethically co-opted those images, falsely implied they were recent, and stated that they represent how Democrats and “the left” view Clarence Thomas today.

Given all the facts, the average American listening to Senator Cruz speak (video below) at Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court ethics would be forced to believe that Democrats from today traveled decades back in time to work with Emerge, that highly-respected Black-owned magazine in the 1990’s to create racist covers attacking Justice Thomas so they, along with their “lapdogs in the media,” could conspire to “smear” the far-right jurist today.

It’s a theory akin to the Republicans’ “birther” conspiracy about Barack Obama, whose mother, some conservatives apparently believed, had a birth announcement printed in a Hawaii newspaper in 1961 to allow her son, allegedly born in Kenya, to be deemed eligible to become President of the United States in 2008.

A casual viewer who might see Senator Cruz’s Tuesday attack on Democrats in defense of Justice Thomas would reasonably assume the magazine covers he showed during Tuesday’s hearing on Supreme Court ethics were published this year.

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In fact, they were published three decades ago, from 1993 to 1996.

Senator Cruz conveniently left that fact out of his afternoon diatribe, and he attempted to conceal the magazine’s publication date from the start of his rant, by leading with a magazine article that was published this year.

“Senate Democrats and their lapdogs in the media are engaged in a two-fold political campaign, number one to delegitimize the Supreme Court of the United States because they are angry that there are a majority of constitutionalists on the court,” Cruz said, referring to the 6-3 majority far-right justices hold. (Last year a study found the Supreme Court “is now more conservative than about 75% of Americans.”)

“But number two,” Cruz continued, “very directly this is a political campaign designed to smear Justice Clarence Thomas. And the reason is simple: the left despises Clarence Thomas, and they do not despise him because he’s a conservative. The left despises Clarence Thomas because he is a conservative, African American.”

“Here’s what Clarence Thomas said at [his] confirmation hearing. He said, ‘If you are a free-thinking African American, ‘you will be lynched, destroyed and caricature by a committee of the US Senate.'”

“Well, in three decades, that hasn’t changed,” Cruz claimed. “It’s gotten worse. And to be clear, here’s the left’s view. I point to one article just three weeks ago: ‘The Democrats need to destroy Clarence Thomas’s reputation.'”

That article, an opinion piece in The New Republic, by its editor Michael Tomasky, followed one he had written in July of last year: “Sure, Impeach Clarence Thomas—but That’s Just for Starters.”

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“The story is much larger than a potential conflict in one Supreme Court case,” Tomasky wrote, referring to “Thomas’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, his vow in his concurring opinion that other privacy rights are next in his gunsights, and his refusal to recuse himself when he was the lone dissenter in the recent case in which the Supreme Court ordered Donald Trump to turn over certain documents to the National Archives, even as Thomas’s right-wing extremist wife was coordinating with the Trump White House to plot a coup.”

“All six conservative justices lied in their confirmation hearings,” Tomasky wrote. “What will Democrats do about that?”

Unlike on the right, where Fox News, Newsmax, or OAN are the generally accepted thought leaders, The New Republic does not speak for “the left,” nor does any publication or media outlet.

“I will tell you,” Cruz continued, “if you look at the next, that next poster board, the left has repeatedly attacked Clarence Thomas with a racism,” Cruz declared, now pointing to a magazine cover from 1996 – without once stating it was from the mid-1990’s. “This is a magazine cover that showed Justice Scalia every bit as conservative as Clarence Thomas, but he’s portrayed as the master and Clarence Thomas in a bigoted attack is portrayed as shining his shoes.”

“I’ll show you another one. To give you a sense of the racist vitriol from the left,” Cruz declared, implying that magazine cover as well was from 2023, despite also being from 1996. “Here’s a racist caricature of, ‘Clarence Thomas Lawn Jockey for the Far Right.’ This is the bigoted contempt the left has.”

“I’ll show you another, another magazine cover,” Cruz said, this time showing a 1993 cover that depicts Clarence Thomas “with an Aunt Jemima-like handkerchief on his head,” as the magazine’s editor wrote later, in 1996.

“Offensively, this is how the left views Clarence Thomas,” Cruz claimed, which most people on the left would state is false.

“Now it’s important for people at home to understand this is not about judicial ethics,” Cruz insisted, again, falsely. “This is not about judicial ethics. This is not about rules that should apply to judges across the board. We could have a reasonable discussion about that. This is about applying a double standard to Clarence Thomas and only Clarence Thomas.”

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Senator Cruz, to put it generously, is fibbing.

First, as Chairman Durbin noted in his opening remarks and several times throughout the hearing, Senate Democrats, including Durbin, since at least 2011 have been trying to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to fix its ethics problems.

Second, Justice Thomas is not the only Justice Democrats have been criticizing for what some would say is a lack of transparency and even possible corruption.

Justice Neil Gorsuch‘s sale of property, on the market for two years but sold just nine days after he was confirmed, to the head of a law firm, a law firm that argues before the Supreme Court. That sale is under public scrutiny, especially because the name of the head of the law firm was hidden via an LLC. Also under public scrutiny is Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife’s $10 million income from recruiting and placing lawyers in firms, some of which have business before the Supreme Court.

Now, about those racist magazine covers.

(NCRM takes no position on the covers.)

They were published 27 years ago by Emerge magazine, which ceased publication in 2000. It was considered the nation’s most respected Black-owned magazine.

The New York Times, in its 2016 obituary of Emerge’s editor in chief, George Curry called it, “a provocative, must-read newsmagazine for black readers.”

“The magazine caused an uproar in 1993 when it depicted Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court justice, on the cover wearing an Aunt Jemima-style kerchief on his head,” The Times wrote. “Unrepentant, Mr. Curry returned to the same subject in 1996, this time showing Justice Thomas on the cover as a lawn jockey and, on an inside page, shining the shoes of Justice Antonin Scalia. In an editor’s note, he accused Justice Thomas of turning back the clock on civil rights.”

To be clear, Sen. Cruz told the American people that Democrats’ racism caused those images to be published.

In fact, it was Justice Thomas’ attacks on Black civil rights that did, according to Curry, who wrote in Emerge in 1996: “I apologize. Exactly three years ago, shortly after I took over as editor of Emerge, we ran a cover illustration of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, resplendent with an Aunt Jemima-like handkerchief on his head. In retrospect we were far too benevolent. Hence, this month’s cover with Clarence appropriately attired as a lawn jockey. Even our last depiction is too compassionate for a person who has done so much to turn back the clock on civil rights, all the way back to the pre-Civil War lawn jockey days.”

Senator Cruz did not share the truth about those images with America, but he did manage to use them for his own purposes.

Watch Senator Cruz below or at this link.

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