The Scandal of Clarence Thomas’s New Clerk


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By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker

Last week, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shocked the legal community when the news broke that one of his new law clerks will be Crystal Clanton—who became notorious in 2015 for apparently sending texts that said, “I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.” For most young lawyers, sending such a text would indeed have been the “end of story.” Instead, Clanton is on the cusp of clinching one of the most coveted prizes in the American legal system. In the past several years, as Clanton has risen through the ranks of conservative legal circles, the story of her alleged racist outburst has been curiously transformed into a tale of victimhood. The new narrative is that Clanton was somehow framed by an unnamed enemy who—for motives that remain unclear—fabricated the racist texts to defame her.

This new account has been greeted with suspicion by many. If the revised story is a lie, then it threatens to implicate not just Justice Thomas, who has endorsed it, but several lower-court federal judges and the leader of a major political group aligned with former President Donald Trump. Indeed, the whole affair may prove one of the most shopworn axioms of political reporting—that the coverup is worse than the crime.

When the vile texts were sent, Clanton was the second-in-command and field director of the hard-right youth group Turning Point USA. The organization, a nonprofit advocacy group closely allied with Donald Trump’s Presidential aspirations in 2024, is well known for poisonous rhetoric: its leader, Charlie Kirk, has recently denigrated Martin Luther King, Jr., as “awful,” questioned whether Black pilots are capable of flying planes, and argued that televised public executions, perhaps by guillotine, should be held in America, with young people watching. Yet, even within Turning Point, colleagues were so shocked by the bluntness of Clanton’s alleged texts that they preserved screenshots of the messages, which were shared in 2017 with The New Yorker.


The story would likely be long forgotten, were it not for an extremely strange plot twist. After the texting scandal, Ginni Thomas, the lobbyist and politically active wife of Clarence Thomas, who had worked closely with Clanton as an adviser to Turning Point, unofficially adopted Clanton as the couple’s protégée. The Thomases harbor deep anger at the mainstream media, stemming in part from the Justice’s embattled 1991 confirmation hearing, and evidently saw in Clanton a fellow-victim. Soon after leaving Turning Point, Clanton started working for Ginni Thomas. Remarkably, the Thomases then invited Clanton to live with them at their home in exurban Virginia, for the better part of the next year. The couple encouraged Clanton to go to law school, and Justice Thomas himself recommended her when she successfully applied to the Antonin Scalia Law School, at George Mason University. Justice Thomas also helped Clanton, who graduated in 2022, line up a prestigious judicial clerkship with Chief Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Pryor is one of the most conservative members of the federal bench, and a well-known “feeder” of clerks to Justice Thomas’s chambers.

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