Few things say self-made like getting covertly bankrolled by wealthy donors for decades at a time with no real consequence. Of all the things you can say about Clarence Thomas excusing the legal ramifications of being given hundreds of thousands of dollars because one of the people he asked said it was okay, you cannot call him inconsistent. Hating affirmative action for staining him with the stigma that he doesn’t belong in places of high prestige has not prevented Thomas from taking PR handouts from those aiming to boost his reputation. From the ABA Journal:
[Leonard Leo’s] fundraising prowess was on display in advance of the 25th anniversary of Justice Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation. Conservative nonprofits “steered” by Leo spent at least $1.8 million for a “coordinated and sophisticated” public relations campaign supporting Thomas, according to the Washington Post’s examination of records and interviews.
“The campaign would stretch on for years and include the creation and promotion of a laudatory film about Thomas, advertising to boost positive content about him during internet searches, and publication of a book about his life,” the Washington Post reports.
Few things say merit like manipulating SEO so that when people search for your name the bad sexual assault allegations don’t come up. I wonder when the fanfare about the book will pop up. Considering that conservatives were up in a tiffy over Sotomayor’s book, surely discovering that Thomas’s was a poorly concealed PR stunt will push these good faith actors to interrogate their held biases about this justice.
If that wasn’t enough for you, the ball doesn’t stop with Leo.
While being paid, Paoletta wrote op-eds attacking Thomas accuser Anita Hill and supporting Thomas. He also worked with a public relations company tied to conservative nonprofits that created a Thomas fan Twitter account and websites that supported Thomas and opposed Hill’s accusations.
And to think, whenever I thought of an infamous celebrity that reached fame in part thanks to creating dummy accounts to boost his numbers, I thought of Lil B. I should have been thinking of Thomas.
The public relations campaign is likely to continue due to phenomenal reporting and Thomas not being bound by a code of ethics like most other members of the judiciary.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.