NPR's Nina Totenberg spent more than 4 minutes on Wednesday's Morning Edition to supposed ethical conflicts of interest for conservative Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia. By contrast, Totenberg devoted only 17 seconds to the more current issue of liberal Justice Elena Kagan's service in the Obama administration as a factor in upcoming cases before the Court.
Host Renee Montagne introduced the correspondent's report by noting how both "liberal groups have chastised conservative justices for attending private conferences put on by conservative political interests, and conservative groups have responded by leveling some criticism in the other direction." However, the journalist devoted the first three minutes of a seven-and-a-half minute segment on the criticism launched at Clarence Thomas's wife from the left:
NBC's Andrea Mitchell, in a piece aired on Thursday's Today about Virginia Thomas' call to Anita Hill, made a point of tying the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to "conservative causes" but offered no ideological label for Hill. Mitchell also offered two sound bites from Hill supporters, but only featured a brief clip of an old audio-book excerpt from Clarence Thomas expressing sympathy for his wife.
After the NBC correspondent noted that Hill and her "allies" claimed Thomas' request for an apology was "inappropriate" Mitchell aired Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree calling Thomas' behavior "bizarre." Mitchell also featured Jill Abramson, the New York Times reporter and author of the Clarence Thomas bashing book, Strange Justice, questioning the timing of the Supreme Court justice spouse.
Mitchell did play a clip of Clarence Thomas reading from his book My Grandfather's Son, in which the Justice relayed how the two "shared the pain" during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings, but then went on to bemoan that this new controversy "interrupted the secluded life Hill now leads at Brandeis University."
In the wake of Virginia Thomas requesting an apology from Anita Hill, on Thursday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Chris Wragge used the story to raise questions about Thomas's political involvement: "That phone call is bringing up new scrutiny upon Virginia Thomas, who is not just an angry spouse but also a long-time advocate of conservative causes."
In the report that followed, CBS chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford implied that since Virginia Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas her conservative activism in a conflict of interest: "She has long advocated for conservative causes....she formed a grassroots conservative group called Liberty Central and has spoken at tea party conventions....Critics have raised questions about her role in the group as the wife of a sitting Justice, and Mrs. Thomas, not one to suppress her opinions, has felt the heat."
In broadcast network stories on how Ginni Thomas left a phone message for Anita Hill (“I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband”) , a revelation which ABC and NBC decided merited their lead slot, the network journalists couldn't resist scolding her for her conservative political activity.
“Ginni Thomas has long stretched our idea of what a spouse of a non-partisan Supreme Court justice should be,” ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi contended, explaining: “A long-time conservative activist, she now heads Liberty Central, an advocacy group opposing what she characterizes as the leftist tyranny of President Obama.”
On CBS, Jan Crawford declared the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “has come under scrutiny” because “she formed a grass-roots conservative group and speaks at Tea Party conventions.” NBC's Andrea Mitchell echoed: “Recently, Virginia Thomas has emerged as a high-profile Tea Party activist and skilled fundraiser,” calling that “an unusually partisan role for a Supreme Court spouse, as the New York Times wrote on the 19th anniversary of the hearings, the same morning Mrs. Thomas called Anita Hill.”
Keith Olbermann on Wednesday called for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign.
Thomas's wife Virginia runs a political organization called Liberty Central which at this point has not revealed who its donors are.
"She is a living, breathing, appearance of a conflict of interest," whined Olbermann during Wednesday's "Countdown."
"Either she must reveal the names of her donors and everyone employed by, affiliated with or donating to or donated to by Liberty Central, or Justice Thomas must resign from the Supreme Court" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Media outlets from CNN to NPR to the Washington Post have picked up on the Los Angeles Times story suggesting there could be conflicts of interest for Virginia Thomas to start her group Liberty Central while she's married to Justice Clarence Thomas. But none have attacked the couple like leftist talk-show host Mike Malloy did on his syndicated radio show Monday night.
Malloy called Justice Thomas a "Nazi" and a "house negro" who slavishly imitates Antonin Scalia and his wife was "an ignorant son of a bitch." At his strangest, Malloy claimed Justice Thomas has never authored a majority opinion for the high court. (In truth, he's written at least 140.)
He seemed race-obsessed as he claimed the "teabaggers" were racist, that they would object once they discovered "She’s a very, very, very, very, very white Omaha, Nebraska woman married to a very, very, very, very black South Georgia man." He began (click here for audio):
On Sunday's Newsroom, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin disputed the conclusion of the Los Angeles Times on the apparently shocking new political initiative of Clarence Thomas's wife Virginia Thomas, that it "could give rise to conflicts of interest for her husband...as it tests the norms for judicial spouses." Toobin defended Mrs. Thomas' grassroots conservative work.
Anchor Don Lemon brought on the senior legal analyst just before the bottom of the 10 pm Eastern hour to discuss Kathleen Hennessey's article in the Sunday L.A. Times, titled "Justice's wife launches 'tea party' group." The Times writer indicated that Mrs. Thomas' new organization somehow risked the partiality of the Court, as indicated in the article’s subtitle, "The nonprofit run by Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is likely to test notions of political impartiality for the court." She continued later that "the move by Virginia Thomas, 52, into the front lines of politics stands in marked contrast to the rarefied culture of the nation's highest court, which normally prizes the appearance of nonpartisanship and a distance from the fisticuffs of the politics of the day."