In This Episode
Joel Anderson, host of Slow Burn: Becoming Justice Thomas, joins Melissa and Kate to analyze the justice’s trajectory from his childhood in Georgia to his contentious confirmation hearings. Plus, Joel spills behind-the-scenes tea about reporting the series– including how he found himself in the living room of Justice Thomas’s mother.
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Melissa Murray [AD]
Show Intro Mister Chief Justice, may it please the court. It’s an old joke, but when an argued man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they’re going to have the last word. She spoke, not elegantly, but with unmistakable clarity. She said. I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.
Kate Shaw Hello and welcome back to Strict Scrutiny, your podcast about the Supreme Court and the legal culture that surrounds it. We are your hosts today. I’m Kate Shaw.
Melissa Murray And I’m Melissa Murray. And we are back today with another special summer episode. And for today’s episode, we are absolutely delighted to be joined by Joel Anderson, the host of the fantastic and incredibly timely eighth season of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast, which is titled Becoming Justice Thomas. Very tantalizing.
Kate Shaw Joel is a staff writer at Slate, where, in addition to his writing, he has now hosted three seasons of the indispensable Slow Burn podcast. Joel, welcome to Strict Scrutiny. We are so happy to have you and really excited to talk about your fantastic season Becoming Justice Thomas.
Joel Anderson My honor. My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me on. Big fan of the show, too. So I’m really glad to be here.
Melissa Murray Well, we are huge fans of Slow Burn, and we both devoured all of the episodes this season just as a roadmap for our listeners. We’re mostly going to talk about what Joel discovered and reported on during this season of the podcast. But we also want to talk at the end about Justice Thomas’s rip roaring concurrence in Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard and UNC, which came out after the season was released. And we also want to do a little digging on some of the new investigative reporting that’s come out about Justice Thomas and his predisposition for luxury travel and basically living the high life.
Kate Shaw But before we get there, we do want to talk about the podcast. So maybe first, Joel, can you tell us a little bit about how this season came about? So why Justice Thomas and why now? You know, it was really striking to us that at the same time your episodes were dropping, we were getting these kind of near weekly revelations from folks at ProPublica and elsewhere reporting on, as Melissa just alluded to, Justice Thomas’s receipt of lots of undisclosed largesse from billionaire benefactors. You also had the PBS documentary about Clarence and Ginni Thomas. So there definitely feel like there are some Zeitgeisty forces at work. But you must have been working on this before all of that started coming out. So again, why Justice Thomas and why now?
Joel Anderson Yeah, I wish I could say that I was smart enough to time it up and sync it up with all this new breaking revelations about him and his life and all the benefits that he’s received. But it really wasn’t about that. I actually just have a very long list of projects that I like to do. And so after I finished season six of Slow Burn, which was about the L.A. riots, I said, You know what? I think I wouldn’t mind doing Justice Thomas. And so I pitched it to my team and they were like, ahh, I don’t know, we’ll see. So I kept pitching it and finally they got excited. But, you know, I mean.
Melissa Murray Wait wait, they weren’t excited at the beginning?
Joel Anderson No. And I think because if season seven was about Roe v Wade and it was like, ugh, we already kind of did a Supreme Court theme, you know, maybe we don’t need to do that again. And I could I could totally understand that.
Melissa Murray I cannot understand that. I don’t know why every season of Slow Burn is not about the Supreme Court.
Joel Anderson Right. I mean, I think there’s a lot of rich stories that can be told through all these cases and the people involved. But I totally got that. Maybe we don’t want to do another Supreme Court story, right. Like, maybe we should try something else. And I get that. But, you know, Clarence Thomas is somebody that I’ve been aware of for most of my like life, right? I’m only 45 years old. Only 45? I’m 45 years old. I’m a middle aged man. And as I mentioned in the podcast, in the final episode, my favorite writer, the late writer Ralph Wiley, wrote this very memorable essay about Clarence Thomas called Mr. Justice Thomas. It goes through a lot of the stuff covered in the final segment of the podcast, which is like this community conversation about Clarence Thomas and who he is then and who he might become someday. And I’m looking back over these last 30 years and I’m like, Wow, a lot of people got it wrong, man. And and so maybe it would be good to reinvestigate that and see, like, you know, where people went wrong and why Some people who were aware of what he might become on the Supreme Court bench, like why they were right about it. And so I just thought, you know, maybe this is a good thing. And, you know, to be honest, I wanted the challenge of it. You know, I thought that it would be hard and not hard in like a boring way, you know, where I’d just be digging through, you know, reading through all these, you know, opinions and everything else. But I just thought the challenge of trying to talk to him and people around him and what I might get at the end of it does seemed like it might be rewarding if it all came together.
Melissa Murray Well, it definitely comes together. I will say that this season is my summer bod goals. It’s incredibly svelte, but action packed four terrific episodes divided roughly between Justice Thomas’s childhood, his experiences in college, in law school, his early career at the EEOC and other parts of the Reagan administration. And then finally, the blockbuster confirmation hearings where the whole world seemed to learn about Clarence Thomas. But I don’t want to give off too many spoilers for those who haven’t listened. And if you haven’t listened, you. You really should. You should. You should stop listening to us right now and go a download Slow Burn. But there is so much to talk about in this season that we really can’t spill all of it or spoil all of it. So let me ask you, can you just give us a sort of high level view of Justice Thomas’s childhood? Like what sort of set the stage for the man who would become Justice Thomas?
Joel Anderson Right. Well, so we open with we’re talking a little bit about the confirmation process itself and how the the people that backed Clarence Thomas, you know, Senator John Danforth and a lot of other the Republicans like sort of cynically use this pinpoint myth like he grew up in a coastal community in south Georgia called Pinpoint Georgia, just a little bit south of Savannah. And it is a very isolated place. It’s very rural people, you know, shuck oysters, fish there. There’s a very poor place, but it’s also a very beautiful place. And he grew up among this very isolated place that was founded by cheese and all those people that were formerly enslaved and sort of escaped for white people who, you know, were left to their own devices. And it’s a very poor place. Like, I mean, I if you go down there and drive through it, you know, a lot of dirt roads, a lot of trailers, that sort of thing. And he talks about this as being sort of the foundation of his youth. But actually he moved away from there when he was six years old, which is I mean, any of us who is you know, how many of us remember what happened to us when we were four years old? Right. And so he moves in with his grandfather and Savannah, a man named Meyers Anderson and Meyers. Anderson is an entrepreneur, but he’s an illiterate. Right. He’s a guy that is growing up and trying to make something of himself in Jim Crow South. And he finds a way to make a decent living for himself as a delivery man. So he delivers fuel, coal, oil and ice to black families across Savannah. And as it turns out, Miles, Anderson has a pretty good life man. He has a he’s able to build his own home. It’s a middle class home. It’s the same home that’s right there today in Savannah. So obviously, he built a pretty good house, Right. And so Clarence Thomas moves in with his grandfather and his grandmother. And they’ve got appliances, they’ve got linens, they’ve got electricity. Right. So that’s something that he had to pinpoint. And he’s able to go to Catholic school. And this is what I think is sort of the story of his life, is that he wants to tell people, I grew up in poverty. I understand it so much better than other people. I was able to sort of lift myself out of that. But it actually happened is that he moved in with somebody that was willing to take him on, take him and his brother on, and lift them out of poverty. And so he sent them to Catholic school and was insistent that they make something of themselves. And I’m not going to pretend that it was a difficult upbringing. Right. Like, they were still black people in Georgia in the 1950s and 1960. So they still had to contend with that. But relative to other black people and not talk to classmates and friends of his, they say Clarence had a pretty good and that’s not something that he probably would say publicly. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think that he has said something like that publicly. But, you know, even to like my parents who grew up in Arkansas and Louisiana, like he had a pretty good man and he had food on his table every day. He got to wear his cap. You know, Catholic school was not cheap, like they had to pay you to go there. It’s not like they gave him a scholarship or something like that. So that’s what I would say about his childhood, that it was actually much better that he would lead people to believe.
Melissa Murray So materially, it was more comfortable than the Gullah community pinpoint, which is not only separate geographically from the broader community, but actually separate linguistically, like they had their own language that really made them distinct from not only the white community but other blacks. But he also talks about the fact that his grandfather was kind of a flinty guy like this was not a man who doled out hugs. This is not the sort of Wilford Brimley grandfather. This is a hardier person, someone a little more stoic even. And he admires that. I mean, his autobiography is called My Grandfather’s Son, but his grandfather seems to be a very remote person emotionally, and it seems like his childhood is devoid of some of the emotional contact that we typically associate with functional childhoods. Like is is this a man who’s dealing with trauma?
Joel Anderson Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think well, it’s sort of complicated, right, Because he wasn’t just raised by his grandfather, which is what he would like people to believe. He had a very loving grandmother who made his clothes prepared, you know, lavish meals for them three times a day, allowed them to watch TV after his grandfather went to sleep. So it wasn’t like he was his childhood was totally devoid of love. But you’re right, Mars Anderson was a very difficult, hard man. And I’ll give an example. I mentioned that he was a delivery man, so he had these boys working every day like they get off before they went to school. After they went to school, he believed that they had to go work. And on these deliveries, you know, sometimes it’d be very cold in the morning below for. Freezing temperatures. He would not allow his boys to wear gloves. He thought he thought that their hands freezing, that it would it was good for them because they would the hands would calloused. They would get really hard. They would learn to deal with pain and discomfort. Right. That’s the sort of childhood he had, that basically being hard on them and in it mean some people may say hard, some people may say cruel. Right. I mean, I guess it’s depending on who you are that that was the way that you made a man of somebody and that you made a something to somebody that they learned to overcome difficulty. So, yeah, I mean, I don’t want to overlook the trauma that was within his childhood because obviously there’s a lot of that there. But there is some good parts, too. And his grandmother, who gets overlooked in this story all the time, she was right there providing a lot of the love that he doesn’t talk about publicly.
Melissa Murray He does seem to also be very fixated on his reception in the broader black community. And as you note in the podcast, he gets a lot of derision from his fellow black students because he’s actually very dark skinned. And this is the South. There are still, like norms of beauty that very much echo Eurocentric standards. And in fact his classmates refer to him as ABC, which is not a Jackson five song, but actually stands for America’s Blackest Child. And again, that also seems to be a kind of seminal moment for him, like where he’s distanced from a community and in ways that he finds very troubling and problematic.
Joel Anderson Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, you know, anybody that has gone through that sort of colourism, right. And has endured it in their childhood, it can be a formative experience. It’ll stay with you forever and it can make you feel distant from the people that are around you. And that certainly seems to impacted him. And I actually talked with a couple of his classmates. They said, you know, and he was kind of the butt of the joke man, that he was a guy that was picked on. He was not a very big kid. He’s not a big guy today, but he was a small kid, too. And so that made him, you know, sort of a target for some of the bullies on the playground. And that was one of the ways that they got to him, his size and his skin color. So, yeah, I would never I would never want to say that that that did not have an impact on him because it clearly did. And actually, it made me when this all started, when we were going through the process of trying to build up this podcast, my initial theory, the way that I described Clarence Thomas, is a person without people, right? That he just seemed very alone and isolated, even amongst people that theoretically he had a lot in common with. Right. But it certainly seems to have impacted him in such a way, and it embittered him towards black people in a way that is clearly still stuck with him.
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Kate Shaw So we’re talking now both about family dynamics and his childhood school dynamics. So one doesn’t want to diagnose trauma like remotely like this. I’m not, you know, a psychologist or trained, but it does feel like both the potential trauma of a grandfather who is a very tough character. Right. You can characterize it in different ways. The trauma of just like childhood in the Jim Crow South in which, you know, so he is both the target of very real colourism from other black kids at school. And then later, when he is in seminary, he’s one of the only black students in a white Catholic seminary in which he is subject to like vicious racism from his white peers. And then he moves on. So just to kind of move forward in the narrative a little bit to Holy Cross. So like by the time he gets to college at Holy Cross and the whole story is different phases of transformation. So like, where is he on his journey with respect to race, with respect to politics, with respect to religion? Kind of talk us through maybe what which Clarence Thomas. We meet at the age of I guess he’s a sophomore, right? He transfers to Holy Cross for college.
Joel Anderson Yeah. No. So he gets to Holy Cross after he leaves the seminary and he’s still the person that’s trying to find himself. Right? You know, this is his dream. The dream through most of his teenage years is that he was going to be the first black priest in Savannah. And so he’s sort of lost and adrift. And he gets the Holy Cross, one of a handful of black students on campus. And he falls in with these guys who show up, you know, which is it wasn’t explicitly named an affirmative action program, but functionally, it was one they look, they went out looking for like black students that they thought would be able to fit in on campus and survive. It’s sort of a rigorous academic curriculum there. And as he gets there, you know, this is not the fall of 1968, man. I mean, you know, what was going on as the country. This is a few months after Martin Luther King’s assassination. There’s a lot of social upheaval in the world and in the country particularly. And so Clarence Thomas wants to fit in. He wants to have friends. He wants to get along with people there. And these are the people that welcome him on campus. And so he sort of adopts this countercultural, revolutionary vibe. He finds himself falling in and listening to Malcolm X speeches, following the Black Panthers at the time that this group of black students on Holy Cross, they actually found a free breakfast program that was modeled after the Black Panthers. Right. And so I don’t know what to say of his ideology at this time. Right. Because it certainly seems that by deed that that is where his heart was. But I would also say and I spoke with Leah Wright regard, who is a professor at Johns Hopkins University and wrote the great book, The Loneliness of the Black Republican. One thing that she pointed out to me that I kind of failed to to to remember at the time is that, man, what is sexier than the Black Panthers in the late 1960s? Right? Like, if you want to be cool, right.
Melissa Murray Get a beret, get a black turtleneck.
Joel Anderson Get a beret, get a black turtleneck, wear combat boots, do the whole thing. You know, that is a real good costume to put on if you want to fit in with people and stand out on campus. And so that is the personality that he adopts, at least for those few years at Holy Cross. And it makes him stand out on campus. Right. And obviously, whatever people think of him as a justice today, he clearly has a very active mind, a very fertile mind. And he’s very smart, very hard working dude. And he makes his name on campus by arguing with people and talking about the political issues of the day. And then he has this like getup that he’s wearing around campus. And so it helps him to like, kind of find a safe haven amid this very white campus that had not had a very many black people prior to him being there.
Kate Shaw It’s interesting to focus on the esthetics of that phase, as Leah did and as you are in that yeah, it’s not he’s not identifying, we don’t think, as a panther per se in these days, right. I mean he helped found a black student union. This breakfast program is modeled on Panther programs, but it really is it seems about the beret that like fatigues or camouflage more than maybe I guess we don’t know. Right. I guess part of it is that like it’s a little mysterious what is actually developing in terms of his mind and his ideology.
Melissa Murray I don’t think it’s mysterious at all, like he did not know how to get girls. Eddie told us this, Eddie Jenkins told us this.
Kate Shaw Oh we’re going to get to Eddie Jenkins. We are obsessed with Eddie Jenkins
Melissa Murray Eddie had to make a referral. Part of the referral was get you a beret and a black turtleneck.
Joel Anderson Right? No, that’s real. I mean, that is very important to a kid that’s 19 years old. This is not a lot of experience, But I mean, I don’t want to like, say that he totally wasn’t invested in some of the political ideology of the Black Panthers or the Nation of Islam. I mean, actually, I would say to that it’s not that far of a leap from becoming a Black Panther, a member of the Nation of Islam, to becoming a conservative. I mean, Eldridge Cleaver, one of the founders of the Black Panthers, became a conservative Republican in the eighties. Muhammad Ali endorsed Ronald Reagan. You know, Jim Brown, who just out here was a supporter of Donald Trump. So it’s not it’s not that far afield, right?
Melissa Murray Yeah, it’s a it’s an excellent point. And, you know, I’ve written about reproductive rights discourse among the Panthers in the 1960s, and it’s the women in the movement. Who are pushing back on the men who want a more conservative approach to reproductive rights, like the men want the women to have more babies. And the women are like, we want to stay light and ready for flight and ready for this fight. And we would like reproductive freedom. It’s also worth noting that on whether or not we would formally call what happened at Holy Cross an affirmative action program, it was the brainchild of a priest, John Brooks, at Holy Cross. It was incredibly successful. The black man that he identified and brought in to Holy Cross in that class turned out to be wildly, wildly successful. So Edward Jones wins a Pulitzer Prize for literature. Ted Wells, another classmate of Clarence Thomas, becomes a huge rainmaker at Paul Weiss in New York. It’s just a star studded class. So whatever you want to say about affirmative action, the leg up really gave these young men a platform and they all pretty much used it to do great things. So like leaving that to the side, Like, it is interesting that Clarence Thomas comes to the question of affirmative action, even as he was within this really star studded milieu that became incredibly successful. I think the whole aspect of his social life here is one of the most revealing parts of the podcast. Like basically Clarence Thomas is kind of a herb in college. He doesn’t know how to talk to women.
Joel Anderson Not just kind of. Not just kind of.
Melissa Murray He is a herb. He’s he’s he’s Urkel, he’s Urkel, and he can’t figure out how to talk to women. That’s not surprising. He spent most of his time in all male seminaries. He wants very much to talk to women. And then he has a couple of friends who do him a solid, fix him up with a woman, Cathy, Cathy ambush. And he is like, I think I love her. And she’s literally the first woman he takes seriously and he goes on to marry her. We know virtually nothing about this marriage to Cathy ambush. Did you find out more than what we know?
Joel Anderson So actually very little. And Cathy Ambush has not talked publicly about this relationship that I can find anywhere in the last 40 to 50 years. Right. That they you know, they had a child together, Jamal. The only child they had together, Clarence, was only biological child. And I think that she has a lot of respect for that and did not want to disturb that. Right. And, you know, to to to maintain that relationship. But, you know, I can’t say about Cathy and Bush is that she was part of a family that was fairly prominent in Worcester. His father in law was a member of the NAACP in Worcester, and that they really welcomed Clarence in. Right. And so Clarence, when he’s in Holy Cross and later at Yale Law School, he’s able to go there. They they sort of provide the family environment for him that he did not have in Georgia. They have family meals. They go on vacations together, skiing, fishing, all this sort of thing. They have a vacation house in the northeast, that sort of stuff. And so he’s able to experience this sort of, you know, idyllic family life that he was never able to have. And you can sort of understand the appeal. Like even even we don’t I don’t know. I can’t say how much he loved Cathy, ambush or not. Right. Like, I mean, they got married, whatever. But certainly the appeal of the family was the sort of thing that he was drawn to, and it pulled him in. And in his own book, he says on the day of his marriage, I didn’t know what I was doing. Like I felt nervous. I felt this anxiety, but it was like it was too late. Right. And there’s a picture from that wedding. He’s standing between his mother, his grandmother and Cathy, and he just looks like, What the hell am I doing? It’s like I got it right. So I think that that was a big part of it being able to be a part of the community in a way that he had not been before. And, you know, they were married. They, you know, do a very difficult time. I mean, they did not have a lot of money. And this is going to come when he.
Melissa Murray She drops out of college to support him. Justice for Cathy. Ambush is basically where I am.
Joel Anderson Yeah. Yeah. But she did go back and complete her degree eventually. Right. But yes, she had to go out and work as a bank teller to put him through Yale Law School. And they’re living in like, you know, very meager conditions.
Kate Shaw And they have their child at this point, right? There’s a young child as well. Yeah.
Joel Anderson And they add a child into all of this. So, yeah, they had a lot of financial difficulties early on, although they did get some support from Kathie’s family. There were a lot of compelling reasons for him to get married when he did it, which we can circle back to the herb thing to do, to know how to talk to women. Like if he had been left to his own devices, if Eddie Jenkins did not intercede and hook him up, Lord knows how long it might have taken for him to find somebody that was willing to put up with him.
Kate Shaw Please, Eddie Jenkins, make a referral just has to enter the lexicon now. Like every time. Any time, any time you need to facilitate something, it’s going to be a Jenkins referral.
Joel Anderson Yeah.
Kate Shaw We should say Edie Jenkins is one of the many amazing characters that you talk to in the season, and I do want to come back to the way the podcast ends with Edie. But part of what’s so wonderful about this is it’s, you know, it’s so richly reported and you really get a lot of folks who are really important players in Clarence Thomas life to really open up to you. So at this point, I think we have to ask about Justice Thomas is. Mother, Miss Lola Williams. You call Miss Lola. Can you tell us a little bit about her? How did you come to actually get her to open up to you the way that you did? And what did you learn from her about Clarence Thomas?
Joel Anderson I really wish that I could say I did some, like, great reporter type stuff, you know, that like, you know, I just had to wear it down eventually, but all I had to do was show up at the house. So I backtrack a little bit. I had a four hour interview with Clarence Thomas’s friend from Savannah, Lester Johnson. He has his law firm right there on the river. And as we’re walking out, Lester Johnson is like, Hey, I’ve got to go to the mosque. It’s Ramadan. And after that I may stop by Clarence Thomas, his mother’s house. And I’m like, Oh, what’s that all about? You know, I didn’t know that. I didn’t say anything. So now look up where the mosque is in town. And then I look at the addresses associated with Clarence Thomas, his family, and I just take a guess. And so I drive over to the house, pull up, and you can hear at the start of the podcast that I’m just like, I don’t think this is going to work. I’m just going to knock on the door, get a little audio, and then I’m going to get turned away. And so I knock on the door. A woman opens the door and you hear me say on the podcast, Oops, I think I’ve got the wrong house. I can admit now that the reason I thought I got the wrong house is because a non-black woman entered the door, and I believe it’s the wife of one of his great nephews that lives there. And so I’m just like, Oh, I’m sorry. This clearly isn’t Lee of this house, right? I don’t know. But anyway, she welcomes me in and Ms.. Loyola is sitting in the back watching MSNBC. As we point out in the podcast, we get in there and she’s just immediately warm. Right? And the only thing that I can figure is that she has very few visitors. Like, I cannot imagine that very many reporters. And I’m not saying that this makes me special or anything, but I imagine very few people have the idea to just, hey, one of us go knock on Clarence Thomas mama’s doors right.
Melissa Murray Well, this is how we know you’re from Houston. This is what men from Houston do. They just roll up.
Joel Anderson Oh, what?
Melissa Murray My. My husband is from Houston. He’s always like, let’s just drop in on that. I’m like we can’t do that. It’s a very Houstonian thing to do.
Joel Anderson Yeah, Yeah. I just thought, you know what? We’ll see what happens, right? And so, yeah, I pulled up and she welcomed me in and offered me something to drink. You know, I sit down and I mean, look, I didn’t. It’s not like I pulled out my microphone or anything when I get there, right? I just. I sit and talk to her for about 15, 20 minutes. And then finally, you know, I just like, hey, you know, do you mind if we record this conversation? Normally when I interview people, I have my computer in front of me because, you know, I’m taking notes or whatever. I have a list of questions. I didn’t want her to feel weird about it. So basically I had to freestyle all my questions, all the questions that I really wanted to ask I didn’t necessarily get to because I just wanted to be in the moment with her. But yeah, she was exceedingly warm. And I mean, whatever you think of Clarence Thomas, man, his mom at the age of 94 was just a very sweet, inviting woman who just I just asked her questions and she was willing to talk to me.
Kate Shaw And she’s really proud of her son, understandably. Right. I mean, that definitely comes through sort of you don’t know if I’m sure there are many, many complexities that it’s a little bit hard to kind of draw out in terms of the dynamics of that relationship throughout their lives. But she’s really proud of her son, It’s clear.
Joel Anderson Oh, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, it’s because of, you know, we had limitations in terms of space and time and everything else. We never really talk about Clarence Thomas, his younger brother, Meyers, who moved in with him into that house with the grandfather. But she has as many pictures of Meyers in that house as she does Clarence Thomas. And obviously, Clarence got to live longer. Clarence, his younger brother, Meyers, died of a heart attack in 2003. Right. There’s pictures of him all over the wall. And so there’s people within the family and of the close of the family that say Miss Leela was a little bit closer to Meyers, and he was the one that sort of doted on her and took care of her and always checked in. And Clarence was sort of more distant. And, you know, when we talk and we don’t, there’s not that much audio that is there. But, you know, she kind of makes it clear like, you know, oh, Meyers, that was my boy, you know, that sort of thing. So Clarence had he talks about it a little bit in the book. And if you talk with other people, you had a little bit of resentment for his mother for giving them up like he don’t there’s a respect for her that he had for his grandfather because she think, oh, she wilted under the pressure of single motherhood and she couldn’t stay married.
Melissa Murray But didn’t like didn’t Clarence and Meyers burn down her house? And that was what prompted her to approach her father to take care of her sons?
Joel Anderson Well so Meyers and a cousin burned down their house in Pinpoint.
Melissa Murray Right. This is not Clarence, but like the house burned down, it was really sort of urgent. An exigent situation.
Joel Anderson Absolutely. And so actually what happens is that they burn down the house and then they move into a tenement in Savannah. And this is a sentiment that doesn’t have indoor plumbing. It’s filthy. You know, they’re all crowded into one room, like it’s not like a one bedroom tenement. It’s a one room tenement. So they’re all sort of living in there under very difficult circumstances. And. Mr.. Lola was working as a housekeeper at that point, didn’t have the money to take care of these two young, rambunctious boys. Nor the time. Right. I mean, she had to make them a living. So she goes to her father, Maurice Anderson, and he’s like, Get the hell out of here. You figure it out on your own. It was actually the grandmother who says, Hey, I want to take care of them, bring them in, and then they’re able to move in. But yeah, my house burned down that house. She just seemed to hold it against him. Right. Which is what is amazing.
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Kate Shaw As a reminder to our listeners, one of the several pieces that ProPublica broke on Justice Thomas’s relationship with billionaire Harlan Crowe involved Crowe’s purchase of Thomas’s mother’s home. That home where I gather you were sitting and visiting with Miss Leela, and that his paying for improvements on it and his purchase of several additional properties on the block, etc.. Were you involved in that? So ProPublica’s reporting on this, they obviously get some property records, and I kind of remember there were some questions swirling about whether Miss Lee also lived in that home. Were you able to, because you’d been there and seen her and talked to her? Were you like the confirmation of the fact that she still resided in the home?
Joel Anderson I don’t want to say that on behalf of ProPublica, but at the time that the reporting come out, they did not know live there. We were the ones that were able to confirm it.
Kate Shaw Okay yeah.
Joel Anderson I don’t think they explicitly said that. But the way that we know that she lives there and that that is the house that Harlan Crow bought is because I was there.
Kate Shaw You were saying you were sitting in that house and can confirm it, but just it’s sort of interesting confluence. So we talked a little bit about Jenkins. We’ve obviously talked about Ms.. Lila in terms of other interviewees. I think we have to spend some time on the incredibly impressive Lillian McEwen, who is a former longtime girlfriend of Justice Thomas.
Joel Anderson Yeah.
Kate Shaw Former judge on the Securities and Exchange Commission. And the source of just like, unbelievable revelations I found about the young Clarence Thomas and their relationship. So what did you learn about Clarence Thomas from talking to Lillian McEwen? How did she help shape your understanding of who he was and who he is?
Joel Anderson I mean, it’s actually amazing to talk to Lillian because we don’t put it in the podcast. I’m like, What did you find attractive about him? Because the way that she starts out is roasting him. She’s like, Oh, he didn’t get a haircut, His clothes are raggedy. He was kind of awkward. All he did was come over to my house and drink all my liquor up and talk about himself and his terrible childhood.
They’re both poll staffers at this point right? So he’s with then, Senator Danforth, and she’s working for maybe Ted Kennedy, who she says.
Joel Anderson She was working for Joe Biden.
Kate Shaw Oh, right. She was working.
Joel Anderson For the Judiciary Committee.
Melissa Murray The plot thickens.
Joel Anderson Right? Yeah. Which is crazy. Crazy how this all works, right? Yes. And so she struck up a friendship with Clarence because this is 1980. Ronald Reagan wins the presidential election and she mentions the podcast at that time. If when the Republicans took over the Senate in the White House, then they would be able to it would be their prerogative to staff these committees. Right. And so she’s you know, this is a self-preservation and I want to keep my job. So she reaches out to some Republicans and it just so happens to be the Clarence Thomas is right in front of her. And so, you know, I’m I’m sure if you you can Google Lillian McEwen from the eighties and get a sense of what’s going on here. But she approaches him and he’s like, oh, sure, of course, let’s go get coffee, let’s go get drinks, let’s go hang out. Right? And so, yeah, do so gradually, in spite of all her reservations and this sort of raggedy look in Clarence Thomas in the early eighties, they had a lot in common. They both went to Catholic school. They both had sort of what they would consider miserable childhoods. And they bond over this. And slowly but surely they become closer. And so, you know, you asked me like, what did were the revelations? I mean, the thing is about the depths of the self-loathing and self-pity of Clarence Thomas. Like, I think he touches on that a little bit in his autobiography, But she’s the one this really brings home, that this is not a guy that liked himself or liked very many people as well. And he’s really struggling to sort of find himself. I mean, I talk about a guy, a person without people, so he feels really distant from black people, Right. Because they made fun of him and he feels this sort of guilt by association with black people at the time that, you know, black people have advanced through affirmative action. And because now I’m coming into prominence now that people are doubting my own credentials. And so he’s resentful of that and resentful of the black people that took advantage of the same opportunities he had. But he’s also wary of the white conservatives that have taken this interest in him and want to cultivate him in advance. I mean, he’s like, I don’t I don’t trust them either. Right. And so she’s at this moment when he’s caught in between these two, these two forces, and she gets a chance to see him and the compromises that he has to make as he advances up the ladder. And that’s the sort of thing that I don’t think a lot of other people would have been able to articulate for us, because who has more access to Clarence Thomas, his mind and innermost thoughts than the guy that is sharing a bed with him at the time? Right. And so, yeah, that’s that’s where Lillian was really useful to us. And I mean, you know, without getting too much into it, there’s so much other stuff that she said. And you can read her book or you can even look up page six, like our articles on page six about some of the stuff that she writes about in her book, the things that they did together, the things that they were into, that you would not, you know, you look at and square head ask Clarence Thomas with the glasses and everything else wearing a robe. That dude was into some stuff in the eighties.
Melissa Murray Still waters run deep. For those who are interested, Lillian McEwan’s book is called D.C. Unmasked and Undressed. So give you a little flavor. One of the most interesting aspects of. The podcast was that Lillian essentially leaves him as his conservatism comes into full flower, as he sort of makes this what she thinks is a Faustian bargain to align with the conservatives and to really just adopt their mindset full force and to advance in his career because of that patronage. But she notes that she thinks to this day he still loves her. That shocking aside to me like.
Joel Anderson What, Abi? Yeah, man. I mean, I think that Lillian McEwen, I mean, man, they had a lot of fun together, man. You know, they had a lot of fun together. They spent a lot of years together. And there’s something to be said, and I don’t really know how to articulate this, but she fits in with the esthetic that he likes. And women, I will say that much, right? That is his shit, that he’s really into the Looney Tunes of the world. I mean, also, she understood him. He was willing to listen to him in a way that, quite frankly, very few people was. Well, you know.
Melissa Murray Doesn’t sound like she was a therapist for him. I just keep coming back to this is a man who needed therapy.
Joel Anderson Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. She I mean, she she said he would go on and on and on about all the heartache and the abuse and all the, you know, travails that he went through in his young life. Right. So, yeah, I don’t maybe the thing is, is that even if Ginni Thomas listen to that she’s not familiar with the background that he has. Right. Like she’s not Ginni Thomas isn’t from, you know, the Jim Crow South. She didn’t grow up black in America. Right. So Lillian was able to connect with him in a way that not very many people could. And so I it is a possibility that she did that. She’s right when she says he still loved her. And I don’t know if people you know, in an episode for near the end when he’s going through the middle of the confirmation battle and he’s having this really difficult time, he’s sobbing his eyes out. He’s like, I’m I to get my reputation back. I don’t know. I’m ruined here. And he reaches out to people. One of the people he reaches out to is Lily. I meet you. And when he’s married to Ginni Thomas, which I can’t imagine that he told Ginni Thomas that. Hey, man, you know, by the way, I called up my ex-girlfriend in the middle of all this stuff, right? So, you know, she may be on to something there. Yeah. You look bad if you have a relationship with somebody for however many years they were together, it’s certainly plausible that he may be holding a candle for her.
Melissa Murray You cover so much. Ginni just kind of shows up in your narrative. You don’t really delve into how they got together. Why is that?
Joel Anderson Well, I mean, you know, I think she becomes a more prominent figure in his life after he’s on the Supreme Court. Right. That, you know, then then she sort of becomes a conservative activist and, you know, becomes a much more prominent person. And we were really just trying when this all started, we were we didn’t even think that we were going to do too much on the confirmation battle. Right. We were just like, well, we just want to talk about how he became who he became, and maybe we end right there. Bam, he becomes Supreme Court justice. But it, you know, became a little bit more complicated with all these revelations and everything else. So we had to address it. And that’s when I think Ginni becomes more prominent. But yeah, no, she is a part of this narrative in some way that the funny thing about this, especially in light of the last couple of weeks, they met at an anti-affirmative action conference in New York. Jeff’s right. Yeah. And so they they strike up a conversation there, They share a cab. And Clarence Thomas is like, well, nothing’s going to happen with this. This woman, she’s dating somebody. I don’t date white women, which is.
Melissa Murray Until I do.
Joel Anderson Listen to this for the first time until I do. He changed his mind. And as far as I know, I should add, having talked with his friends and everything else, there’s I can’t find evidence that Clarence Thomas has ever dated or been romantically involved with another white woman in life like this. She truly is one of one. There’s something that they share together and something he saw in her that truly was unique and truly was special to him. So, yeah, I wish if we had eight episodes like the slow burn of Old had, I’m certain she would play a more prominent role. But unfortunately we only had four.
Kate Shaw Season nine maybe.
Melissa Murray Becoming Ginni Thomas.
Joel Anderson And they didn’t want to do Supreme Court. Supreme Court seasons back to back. I can’t imagine they’re going to do it. Three Know we love you know, you guys make a good case. You make a.
Melissa Murray Slow Burn Season 13. We’ll wait for it.
Kate Shaw So we’ve covered some of Thomas’s educational history, but I actually did want to spend a bit on his time at Yale Law School, which was also, I think, incredibly formative. And in particular because I want to talk about the affirmative action cases. So he gets to Yale Law School, something you said earlier, Joel, I think really does come through is this is a person who is really, really hardworking and very smart, like just excels every time he’s in these very elite educational contexts, works his ass off and just like is really, really, really good at school and a very gifted mind as well. Whatever one thinks of what he does with those powers. So we said he’s struggling financially, his wife has to drop out of school and support them, the family as a bank teller. But what was his experience at Yale Law School?
Joel Anderson So he finishes his time at Holy Cross and he knows that he wants to go into law school. And become a civil rights attorney who wants to go back to Savannah and write the racial wrongs of his hometown. And he chooses Yale Law School, funnily enough, allegedly because it was more in keeping with his liberal politics at the time.
Kate Shaw Right because he also gets into Harvard and thinks about it, but decides Yale instead.
Joel Anderson Yeah, he’s like, Yeah, I think. I think Yale’s a little bit better from a from ideology, right? And so he gets there in 1971, in the fall of 1971, which is the first year of Yale Law School’s explicit affirmative action program, like there’s literally a quota that 10% of the incoming class has to be nonwhite. And he gets in in that class. And there’s a lot of anger. There’s a lot of debate over whether or not this is the right thing to do. And Clarence Thomas gets caught up in that. And in fact, one of the people that is on Yale Law School’s admissions board tells a group of black students later that fall, none of you all would have made it in here if not for affirmative action. So you can imagine and like just stepping back for a second to understand where Clarence Thomas is coming from, that would be really hurtful. Like if somebody that had to live through that in the nine affirmative action wars of the nineties, that can really leave a stain. Right. That can really hurt you. And so it obviously radicalized him in the way that that maybe Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 radicalized him and made him briefly consider leftist politics. But it just keeps on going as he’s there and he’s struggling. He’s not making a very much money. He’s in his place that for the first time in his life, he’s having some academic difficulty. Not that he didn’t, you know, eventually excel. But when he gets there, it’s very difficult. And he’s there under the specter of affirmative action with all his white classmates. Believe him. Maybe you don’t deserve to be here, man. And we know why you’re here, buddy. You know, and so this really, really makes him upset. And he says to himself, Well, man, I’m here of some of the elite minds of the country, and they don’t think I deserve to be here. But what really sets them off is three years later, he’s trying to get a job. I mean, this is very important. He’s a young father and he thought he wanted to be a civil rights attorney, but he tried it out in the summer before his final year. It doesn’t go the experience doesn’t go very well. He’s like, I don’t want to do that. And so he’s looking for jobs and he can’t get a job right. He said, I sent out all these applications and do all these interviews. Nothing, nothing has turned up. And he says, well, the problem is that everybody thinks I’m an affirmative action case. And so at that point, the person that steps in to save the day is, at the time the attorney general of Missouri, a guy named John Danforth, who later becomes the junior senator from Missouri. And he gives them a job. And Clarence Thomas is like, well, I don’t know. I’m not really a Republican. I’m not necessarily identified as a conservative. But this is the guy that’s willing to hire me and I need a job. And he takes that job and that sort of sets them on the path. It goes on forever. So, I mean, I think. Right. Yale Law School was a very formative experience for him and not in a good way. Right. He just was really hurt by that. And in fact, when he graduates, he says he has a Yale Law School diploma and he sticks a $0.15 cigar sticker on it because he says that’s all it was worth. It didn’t help me get a job. So how good could it have been? Right.
Kate Shaw It really does come through that these the difficulty finding a job he ascribes entirely to affirmative action as opposed to continued racism in all of these seats of power. Like, no, he’s encountering difficulty finding a job. I am sure that was really, really difficult. But it is really striking that he trains all of his anger on affirmative action. And obviously we now see in the opinion that just came out. So maybe we could pivot now to talking about the affirmative action cases and Justice Thomas’s concurrence in those cases just a couple of weeks ago.
Melissa Murray Justice Thomas, as you know, did not write the majority opinion in the affirmative action cases, but it seemed like he really wanted to because his concurrence is actually longer than the majority opinion and much more pointed in a lot of ways than the majority opinion is. And in particular, there are a couple of very sharp asides, almost seven pages of sharp asides that are directed at Justice Thomas’s only black colleague, the most junior justice, Caton, G. Brown Jackson. What did you make of this concurrence and the sharp dialog between the court’s two African-American members?
Joel Anderson Well, I mean, certainly if you reading through it, it touches on some of his favorite lines and stories like you mean, he says, demeaning. He finds affirmative action to be demeaning. He writes that in there he touches on that old Frederick Douglass line about what people can do is leave us alone. Right. So in terms of him responding to Justice Jackson, I think the thing is, is that he has always thought of himself as I’m exceptional, like I am when I show up. I am the exceptional black guy and everybody sort of recognizes me as such and her presence there and her excellence. Like, I think it really unnerved him because he can’t really lean on that right there. Right. And already has sort of this weird relationship with black women as it is. And for somebody to publicly challenge him, remember what he’s. Famous for publicly, nationally is like Anita Hill like being.
Melissa Murray And his sister, like literally throwing black women under the bus.
Joel Anderson Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And so this happens again. She had the temerity to call him out and to challenge him in public. And it sets him off. Right. And so I think that’s what was going on there.
Melissa Murray I think that’s exactly right. I mean, it’s not just that he’s used to being the exceptional black guy. He is actually the exceptional black guy on this court. And there have been so many moments over the course of his tenure on the court where he has talked about race and everything he says goes unchecked because there’s no other black person to say it’s not quite like that. I mean, so in Virginia versus black, which is a cross burning case, like, you know, he lights into his colleagues, like, do you know what it means to have a cross burning in your yard? And Stephen Breyer is like, you know, I don’t I don’t know things like and here’s this other person. So I think that’s really I think you’re right. And I think there is a very gendered valence to this and an intergenerational dynamic like they’re not of the same generation. And she is someone who has grown up in integrated environments and I think is incredibly comfortable with the idea of mixed environments where it’s he is very much like, let’s all go back to like self segregating and we’re going to be okay because the black people are going to take care of each other and they don’t need white people and we’re still going to be okay.
Joel Anderson Right. Absolutely. And sort of add on to that, like he’s gotten very used over the last 40 years to being the only black man in the room, as you said. And he can speak with this authority about blackness and experience that none of the people there are sort of qualified to challenge. And so for the first time, like somebody else shows up there, excellent, too. And he just doesn’t know how to deal with it, man. Like, it just it really unnerved him. And very rarely in his life has he ever been able to be like, even go back to the EEOC, right when he was the head of the EEOC in the eighties. And they talk about how he would inspect black women, like one of the people that we spoke to, Corey Hartnett, who was his personal assistant for several years, said that Clarence Thomas inspected and auditioned black women if they were, you know, reasonably attractive or whatever, whatever the word she used there. And so he’s used to sort of being like, what I say goes here. Right. I don’t I’m not used to a black woman saying anything back to me or challenging what I say. And so for it to happen in such a public form, you can totally see how that would be like, Well, I thought that I was going to have the final word on this. That’s not quite what happened.
Kate Shaw I’m sure it drove him crazy that what she does in her dissent is basically dismiss in a footnote his seven page tirade in which, you know, he accuses her of using broad observations about statistical relationships, about health and wealth and well-being to label all blacks as victims. He says her desire to do so is unfathomable to me. He says that she has a race infused worldview that falls flat at each step. I mean, it’s really personal and it goes over pages and pages. And she just sort of says in a footnote what? He’s kind of responding to a descent I just never wrote and basically continues making her very powerful affirmative argument. So I’m sure that got even more under his skin, if I had to guess.
Melissa Murray So, Joel, can I ask you about a hot take that I have?
Joel Anderson Oh, please go for it. Let’s hear it.
Melissa Murray This is the kind of hot take that might put you in Twitter jail if you put this out there.
Joel Anderson Well, Twitter is going away anyway so who cares, right? I mean, we’ll be on Thread or whatever, right? So it’s fine.
Melissa Murray Would it have been better if Justice Thomas had written the majority opinion? Because, like, there are some really interesting differences between the majority opinion and his concurrence, although they both end up in the same place, which is to dismantle affirmative action, I would argue that. Despite how misguided he is in doing it, Justice Thomas actually centers black people in a way that the majority opinion does not.
Joel Anderson Man that’s a really interesting theory. You know.
Melissa Murray It’s only a theory. It could be fan fiction. What do you think?
Joel Anderson Actually, this is something I’ve been saying that I actually have been very surprised at Clarence Thomas, his connection to the black community, like throughout this process. I thought that he was totally an instrument of white institutions. Right. Like, he’s a totally creation that he came along with the help of people like John Danforth and Ronald Reagan and George Bush and Harlan Crow. And he has no connection to black people. And actually, he’s very connected to black people. And that is that is sort of that is his orientation to the world that he is talking to black people, except they’re not listening to him. And so in mass. Right. And so, yeah, I think it would have been really interesting. I think maybe he was counting on doing it as well, because this is this is his great white will. Right. This is something that he’s been campaigning against for the better part of his life. And there’s this moment here and then the white chief justice takes it away from him. He doesn’t get his moment here. So, yeah, it would have been really interesting. But I also, like I don’t know, you all are the legal experts here. Is it possible that the scholarship was so sloppy or whatever that people would not that they didn’t want to take the chance of having him lead the way on that? And like.
Kate Shaw It’s no worse than the majority than Roberts, So. no.
Joel Anderson Okay.
Melissa Murray I think you’re right. It ends up in the same place. But I think, again, I don’t mean to be a Clarence Thomas apologist, and I’m not. But there’s a way in which the majority opinion written by the chief justice is about white people and other groups losing out. Whereas Justice Thomas’s concurrence, regardless of what you think about the dismantling of affirmative action, his point is like this does not serve black people. And in that sense it centers black people in a way in which Justice Jackson’s dissent is also centering black people. They just have two very different ideas about what black people need.
Joel Anderson Can’t you imagine him making these arguments at the Black Student Union at Holy Cross?
Melissa Murray Oh 150%!
Joel Anderson Right. Like, he’s been having these arguments within the community since he’s been in college. Right. And so that’s what it read like to me. I’m glad you just connected right there when you said that. But yes, like these these are the arguments he’s been having as he’s been waiting his taillight, but he’s been arguing with black people his entire life. And he gets the right and he only addresses black people in a way that. Yeah, right. That Justice John Roberts, he just he’s unfamiliar with that world. He would never know to like how to even address those folks. Yeah, absolutely. I don’t think we’re going to twitter jail over that.
Kate Shaw We wanted to talk a little bit about recent reporting that has just broken in the last week. So we haven’t had a chance yet to talk about it on the podcast. So this is by times reporters Abby Van Sickle and Steve Eder, who broke a story about Thomas’s longstanding involvement with the Horatio Alger Association, which is an organization that is an interesting and complicated organization. As far as I can tell. I wasn’t actually really familiar with it, but it gives out a lot of scholarship money in the high millions over 70 years or something. But that also seems like this important social club for the rich and powerful. And so it brought Thomas into contact with members who then became his friends. Right? Owners, The Miami Dolphins. The Dallas Cowboys, a one time heir to Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway. And the piece basically says, and I’m quoting here, his friendships forged through Horatio Alger have brought him proximity to a lifestyle of unimaginable material privilege. And so he’s like getting access to all of his material wealth and then in exchange, lending both his own company. Right. The company of a Supreme Court justice, but also literal access to the courtroom, to the members of the board and other high ranking officials in the association. So he is both surrounded by these very, very wealthy benefactors who become friends of some sort, although it does feel like a transactional friendship. But then on the reporting, he is spending tons of time with scholarship recipients, many of whom are kids of color. And so it also is like he is not just hanging out with like the rich white benefactors. He is doing kind of both, but doing it in the context of advancing a bootstrap narrative, right. In which these are the hardworking achievers who just need a leg up and not a government leg up, like a private association like up, and then they will excel. So I’m just curious that all felt like, oh, of course this association exists. And of course Thomas is a central figure in it. It resonates with all the themes in your reporting. Was this association on your radar? Was it something that you were aware of and was there anything sort of new in there that you found?
Joel Anderson Interestingly, the first time I ever heard of the Horatio Alger Association was when I was writing about Ben Carson running for president in 2015. He is a former award recipient of the organization. And do you know who introduced him to the organization? A guy that is quoted throughout that story, Armstrong Williams. Armstrong Williams is the guy that introduced Clarence Thomas to these people and he clearly introduced Ben Carson to them. And he was one of the people that encouraged Ben Carson to run for president and was. One of the people behind that failed campaign, I should note. So that was what I first thought of. There was a quote in that New York Times story that really resonated here. And it said, he says he plans to be rich, says that he means more than just a few hundred thousand dollars a year. And so I’m thinking about there’s this anecdote in the podcast where we talk about where Clarence Thomas is sort of leaving behind the countercultural leftist radical politics behind and moving into the Republican pipeline where he takes down a poster of Malcolm X, his idol, his hero, the guy whose speeches he’s memorized over the years and replaces it with one of a Rolls-Royce. Right. And so that’s actually what I thought. I’m not going to say that Clarence Thomas isn’t sincere in his conservative beliefs, because I do believe that he came about those honestly. But I also think he realized fairly early on, I can make money doing this, man. And if you think about it, the first job that he got was with John Danforth. Those are the people that helped him get a job, saved him from unemployment in doing whatever else he would have had to do if he had not gotten that job and the Missouri attorney general’s office. And since then, he’s just like, follow the money, like he went. He started working at Monsanto after that. And at that point, he was very excited to make this really good salary in downtown Saint Louis, have a nice house. And he talks about this sort of stuff in his book. Like like finally I could afford a nice home and a car and nice clothes and do these sorts of things. So he has always aspired to be a guy who had more money than he does, and I think he’s very acutely aware and he talks about it a lot. His experiences at Yale Law School, all of his very wealthy classmates. Right. The people that come from wealth have vacation homes, get to travel, do this sort of thing, and they have a safety net that he just doesn’t have, still doesn’t have, which is actually sort of shocking. Like his safety net is Harlem Crow and the people of the Horatio Alger Association. It’s not family wealth. Look at the home that his mother lives in. Right. I can’t I don’t want to presume what the other six conservative justices, you know, what their backgrounds are, where they’re from. I cannot imagine that their parents lived in or are living in a home that looks like on the Williamsons. So I think that, you know, Clarence Thomas identified very early. These are the people that want me. These are the people that are interested in me and my ideas. They want to elevate me and also they want to pay me. So yeah, it makes a lot of sense that he would have gravitated to the Horatio Alger Association and he sees it as a useful instrument, not just for himself or for other black people who want to get paid and are willing to say and do whatever it takes to get there.
Kate Shaw Maybe, Joel, one last question, which is, again, going to bring us back to Eddie Jenkins, who is obviously our favorite character in the podcast. And you kind of end the last episode with this rumination that I found, like really moving and also very meaningful. And I don’t want to spoil it, but maybe we could ask the question that it he’s up, which is that there have been many phases of many versions of Clarence Thomas. There is this kind of chameleon like quality that comes through in the season. And I think in the conversation we are having, could there be another Justice Thomas waiting in the wings, or is this one here to stay? Because right now, like this is Clarence Thomas is America. We are all living under it. Like he is shaping the law in such profound ways and our lives in such profound ways. But is he still in development information? I mean, Jenkins maybe seems to suggest that’s possible.
Joel Anderson I think that he holds out hope for his friend. I think I think he’s really clear that I know that you’re better than this. And I know that because I was there with you. I’ve seen what you’re capable of. I know that you care about black people, that you help serve inner city children in Worcester, Massachusetts, that you’ve argued about, like what we need to do to improve our communities. And like, maybe that person is still in there somewhere. And so I think it was more of a hopeful there’s like a really wistful thing that he misses those. And I mean, it does sound like a lot of fun, right? Like these guys are sort of finding themselves in a really iconic time in American history. And they’re on this campus and they’re together and they’re founding the first black student union, one of the first in the country, even at the time. And so he’s like, man, I miss that guy. And actually, just even personally, I talk about in the in the podcast that I found these like commonalities with Clarence Thomas, right when I was talking with Eddie Jenkins, the way that this sort of prompted, I was like, you know, I had one of my best friends is a guy I grew up with. We went to high school with. We did everything together. And gradually, slowly but surely. Ron Brown 2016. I realize he was a Trump supporter and I was like, Man, I miss that guy. I love him. He’s my friend, he’s my brother. And I hold out hope one day that we can have that back, that we can get it back. Right? And so that’s so when Eddie Jenkins said that, you hear me go, Wow, I’m thinking about my own life in my own people. I think everybody maybe I don’t know, I think everybody might have somebody like that in their life. Right. And I thought that was so resonant about it that, you know, there are people that are still out there holding out hope for people and people that that that they think are lost or that have gone down the wrong path. And that’s where Eddie Jenkins ended up for me. So that’s why, like it ends up there, it lands on that note, because even I’m sort of working through that by. Myself in my own life. And so, yeah, but Eddie Jenkins also, man, I mean, just we’re going to have a live show in DC on July 25th. I don’t want to say, you know, I don’t want to make any promises, but he might be there to talk a little bit about more of this stuff.
Kate Shaw You just broke a little news on our podcast Joel, thank you.
Joel Anderson I’m just saying.
Kate Shaw A little potential news. Okay.
Joel Anderson A little potential news.
Kate Shaw We’re not committing to it.
Joel Anderson He’s still in he’s still ruminating over all this stuff. He’s still thinking about it and working through it. And a lot of people from Holy Cross did not talk to us. They’re talking to us through him about this season. And so I think they’re all sort of grappling with how could this be that guy? How could this be the guy in the beret that was willing to protest with us? What is going on here? So, yeah, I think this is all like we’re all still works in progress. And I think that they’re just hoping that maybe there’s one last evolution of Clarence Thomas.
Melissa Murray Well, let’s all pour one out for Eddie Jenkins and his hope that Justice Thomas will be the man Eddie Jenkins wants him to be. And thank you so much, Joel. Anderson this was an amazing discussion. Once again, listeners. Joel Anderson is the host of Becoming Justice Thomas the Slow Burn Season eight podcast. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts and it is the perfect summer listen or in our case, relisten. So definitely check it out. Joel, thanks so much for joining us.
Joel Anderson Oh, you’ll are great. Thanks for having me on. I had a lot of fun.
Kate Shaw Strict Scrutiny is a Crooked Media production hosted and executive produced by Leah Litman, Melissa Murray, and me. Kate Shaw, Produced and edited by Melody Rowell. Ashley Mizuho is our associate producer. Audio support from Kyle Seglin and Veronica Simonetti. Music by Eddie Cooper. Production Support from Michael Martinez, Leo Duran and Ari Schwartz. Digital support from Amelia Montooth. And special thanks to Ebby Shaw and Steve Art for letting me commandeer their home office in Chicago to make this podcast possible.