What's the Frequency, Clarence? The Skinny on Ginni
What role did Washington's premier rightwing power couple play in the insurrection and its aftermath?
Both Ginni and Clarence Thomas wield enormous power individually—she through her political connections and sheer force of will, he through his position on the august Supreme Court. As a duo, they make a formidable team—one of Washington’s most influential, kookiest, and most dangerous power couples.
For years, their work confined itself to the political realm: lobbying for, and ruling in favor of, the moneyed class. But now that Ginni appears to be eyeballs-deep in sedition, it’s fair to ask: who are these people? What is the nature of their relationship? Are they more-or-less equal partners, like Claire and Frank Underwood or the titular characters from Macbeth? Or is the power structure more lopsided, like Catherine the Great and Peter III, or Norma Desmond and Max?
By all accounts, Ginni believes things that can politely be termed “unfounded conspiracy theories” but are more accurately summarized as “bat-shit insane.” This was true in her younger days, when she dabbled in the Lifespring cult, and it’s true now: She’s all-in on the Big Lie.
Is Clarence also a MAGA True Believer? Or does he just submissively indulge her every whim, in the way uxorious husbands do? I mean, the guy was the lone Justice to rule that January 6 text messages involving Trump and his inner circle should be kept under wraps. He didn’t explain why he ruled that way, but it seems likely that he did so to cover his wife’s ass, as she exchanged texts that day with Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows—a key figure in the January 6 Committee’s investigation.
Here is a sampling of her messages to Meadows, both that day and back in November:
“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!...You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
“Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.”
“Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”
“Do not concede. It takes time for the army who is gathering for his back.”
“House and Senate guys are pathetic too... only 4 GOP House members seen out in street rallies with grassroots... Gohmert, Jordan, Gosar, and Roy.”
“Just forwarded to yr gmail an email I sent Jared [Kushner] this am. Sidney Powell & improved coordination now will help the cavalry come and Fraud exposed and America saved.”
Ginni has denied talking to her husband about all this Stop the Steal stuff, but come on, lady; we weren’t born yesterday. This is an older married couple, longtime Beltway insiders, with no kids to demand their attention. Are we really supposed to believe that Clarence was unaware that his wife and “best friend” is My Pillow Guy-level bonkers about the election?
The lobbyist wife of one of only nine Supreme Court Justices actively participating in a plot to overthrow democracy seems like, you know, a big deal. A functional fourth estate would be relentlessly pursuing this story. Headlines would be in our face every day. But our supine press cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, so the story was given the bare minimum amount of airtime and has already receded from the news cycle. As Eric Boehlert notes at PRESS RUN:
During the week of March 6-12, “gas” was mentioned 1,170 times on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, according to TVeyes. By comparison, three days after the Clarence Thomas story broke, he was mentioned just over 100 times on cable news. Contrast: Fox mentioned “gas” 580 times in that one week, “Clarence Thomas” just 14 times in the three days.
Again, I ask—since the mainstream media would rather not: who the fuck are these people?
The Happy Couple
Virginia Lamp, of the Omaha Lamps, married Clarence Thomas in 1987. Ronald Reagan was president. The Cosby Show was still on. New Coke was a thing. I was a freshman in high school—the same year as Jamal Thomas, Clarence’s son from his previous marriage. Thirty-five years later, Cosby and New Coke have long been canceled, Jamal Thomas has a healthy list of acting credits to his name, and Ginni and Clarence remain more or less happily married.
A white woman marrying a Black man must have caused a stir in 1987 Omaha. White Midwestern conservatives born before the Second World War tend not to be what we would now call “woke.” Indeed, the Lamp family listed far to the right:
“I can guarantee you I was surprised when I found out she was going with a black man,” Ginni Thomas’s uncle Ralph Knop said from his farm in Iowa. “It was unusual for us.”
“But he was so nice, we forgot he was black,” her aunt Opal added, “and he treated her so well, all of his other qualities made up for his being black.” . . . .
There was also this statement, from her father Donald Lamp, in the Omaha World-Herald: “If you have any feelings about black color, you forget about it as soon as you start talking to him.” That the paper felt the need to ask him this at all speaks volumes.
(Clarence being “so nice” is corroborated in a book I read about the Supreme Court, called The Nine. The author of that book also wrote a generally positive profile of Clarence’s friend, Federal Society macher Leonard Leo, for the New Yorker—and then was suspended by CNN for masturbating during a Zoom staff meeting, so now I don’t know what to think.)
Before finding each other, Ginni and Clarence had both extricated themselves from unhappy relationships: the latter from his first marriage, the former from Lifespring, a “group awareness training” cult:
In 1991, during Clarence’s confirmation hearing, religious groups were concerned about Ginni’s subsequent anti-cult activity and how that might affect her husband’s rulings on religious cases. In hindsight, this is laughable, given that she is now a key player in the most toxic cult in the history of the United States: the QAnon/ MAGA/ Trump/ Big Lie cult.
Ultimately, Ginni and Clarence have much in common. They are both dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, darlings of the radical Catholic/Leonard Leo faction, more concerned with extreme rightwing orthodoxy than their own interests. Clarence is a Black man opposed to affirmative action who voted solidly with the reactionary Antonin Scalia for decades. Ginni is a woman opposed to women’s rights; while at the Chamber of Commerce, she led the lobbying effort against the Family and Medical Leave Act. As the Washington Post reported in 1991:
In their respective careers, the Thomases have embraced the view that women and minorities are hindered, rather than helped, by affirmative action and government programs. True equality is achieved by holding everyone to the same standard, they believe. . . .
Virginia Thomas has represented the conservative viewpoint in her jobs as a staffer for a Republican congressman, as spokeswoman at the U.S. Chamber of Congress and as deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Labor.
“Virginia Thomas is not supporting the interests of working women in America by the positions she’s taken,” said Pat Taylor, president of Business and Professional Women. “She can have only a negative influence on her husband, which is unfortunate because you’d like to believe that women who achieve a position of responsibility and influence would use that position to help women.”
“If he is influenced by his wife, a white conservative who lobbied against comparable pay for women, he will be anti-women’s issues,” wrote USA Today columnist Barbara Reynolds in a July 5  piece.
Reynolds, alas, called it correctly. As Moscow Never Sleeps wrote on these pages:
Clarence Thomas has been on the court for  years. In that time he has performed three judicial functions: First, he is a reliable conservative vote who has rarely if ever swung to join a liberal foursome. Second, he has avoided anything remotely resembling original and persuasive legal writing that might ever be used by anyone in lower courts as precedent in any gray area of Constitutional law. And third, once he had confirmed his title as the dumbest reactionary on the Court in the Twentieth Century, he graciously stepped aside to allow Samuel Alito to claim that honor for the Twenty-First. In other words, he is a total load.
Bottom line: it strains credulity to suggest that Justice Thomas is not influenced by his wife. Ginni’s job, her function in Washington, is to influence powerful people. She’s very good at what she does. We are expected to believe she turns this off in the privacy of her home?
Why it is that with Ginni and Clarence, my mind, like E. Jean Carroll’s, goes into the gutter? Because we were all forced to go there, as a nation, during his 1991 confirmation hearing. Anita Hill, his direct report at the EEOC, bravely testified about the sexual harassment she suffered while he was her boss. Consequently, we all know a lot more about Clarence Thomas’s sexual predilections than we ever wanted to. More than three decades later, I still associate him with Long Dong Silver.
As a refresher, here are the salient paragraphs from Hill’s testimony:
My working relationship became even more strained when Judge Thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. On these occasions he would call me into his office for reports on education issues and projects or he might suggest that because of time pressures we go to lunch at a government cafeteria. After a brief discussion of work, he would turn the conversation to discussion of sexual matters. His conversations were very vivid. He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises or large breasts involved in various sex acts. On several occasions Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess…
For my first months at the EEOC, where I continued as an assistant to Judge Thomas, there were no sexual conversations or overtures. However, during the Fall and Winter of 1982, these began again. The comments were random and ranged from pressing me about why I didn’t go out with him to remarks about my personal appearance. I remember his saying that someday I would have to give him the real reason that I wouldn't go out with him. He began to show real displeasure in his tone of voice, his demeanor and his continued pressure for an explanation. He commented on what I was wearing in terms of whether it made me more or less sexually attractive. The incidents occurred in his inner office at the EEOC.
One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office. He got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can, and said, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” On other occasions he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal and he also spoke on some occasions of the pleasures he had given to women with oral sex.
This all went down, I should add, in the early 80s, before he met Ginni. But Clarence was sexually harassing Anita Hill while he was dating a federal prosecutor named Lillian McEwen, who claims in a memoir to have engaged in three-ways with the “extremely seductive and romantic” jurist. She corroborates one of Hill’s assertions—that he dug porn—and generally paints a picture of a guy who would do exactly what Hill accuses him of.
Ginni, for her part, thinks Anita Hill made the whole thing up. In 2010, out of the blue, she called Hill, a professor at Brandeis University, and left a voicemail message:
Good morning, Anita Hill. It’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray on this, and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day.
What this suggests is that Clarence has denied the whole thing, and his wife believes him. Anita Hill went on to have an impressive legal career, by the way. Thirty plus years later, it’s abundantly clear that she’s not some lying grifter. Her testimony was at the time, and remains now, extremely credible.
So: Ginni fell for the Lifespring bullshit. She allowed her hubs to lead her down the primrose path with regard to Hill’s testimony. And now, she sincerely believes that [checks notes] “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.” However smart she might be, this is a person who has difficulty separating fantasy from reality. Either that or she thinks the word gullible isn’t in the dictionary.
As for Clarence, we have watched him glare silently from the bench for three decades, and the only thing casual observers can safely say about him is that he’s a nice guy who likes his wife, porn, and fascism. As I wrote in my piece on Leonard Leo:
[L]et’s take [the radical Catholics] at their word. [Father] McCloskey spoke of a “relatively bloodless” civil war, because it’s “not possible” for people like him to peacefully coexist with the LGBTQ community. [Bill] Barr seeks a “traditional moral order.” Leo, as Jay Michaelson succinctly explains in The Daily Beast, believes that “most of the New Deal and administrative state are unconstitutional, that corporations have free speech and free religion rights, that women and LGBT people are not ‘protected classes’ under constitutional law, and that there is no right to privacy implied by the due process clause of the Constitution (i.e., banning abortion, contraception, and gay marriage are entirely constitutional).” These are men who abhor the Equality Act, which passed the House yesterday.
The thing is, those are unpopular positions, reviled by a healthy majority of Americans. Given the demographic trends in the United States, the only way “The Crusaders” can bring the country back to the pre-New Deal era is to establish a dictatorship—a radical Catholic caliphate. Leonard Leo and his buddies are clearly okay with that. The Opus Dei prelature, remember, has its origins in Fascist Spain. The Roman Catholic Church is very much a top-down organization—what the Pope says goes. The late J. Peter Grace, the head of the American Knights of Malta, whose Maine compound Leo now owns, was involved in Operation Paperclip, and was therefore okay with Nazis. Steve Bannon wants to destroy the American administrative state. By eradicating the barrier between Church and State, Leo seeks the same outcome. Ultimately, what these men want is, to put it mildly, inconsistent with democracy. That makes them particularly dangerous.
Leonard Leo, I might add, considers Clarence Thomas a spiritual godfather.
What does this all mean? Hell if I know. There are too many questions that remain unanswered:
How involved was Ginni with the planning of January 6? Was it just the rally, or was she also in with the plot to overthrow the election? Why did Clarence vote to keep the text messages out of the hands of the January 6th Committee? Will she testify?
What is the nature of the relationship between Ginni and Mitch McConnell, Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump? Did she really kibbosh some White House hires and encourage others?
Why did McConnell ask Republicans to vote against the creation of a January 6 Commission as a “personal favor?” Was it pure politics, or something darker? Did it have anything to do with Ginni?
Why was Clarence in the hospital for so long? Did he have covid? How sick was he? Why are crazy rightwing websites suggesting he suffered from thallium poisoning?
In a functioning democracy, Supreme Court Justices would not be overtly partisan. Certainly their spouses would not be working tirelessly to overthrow a fair election. In a functioning democracy, Clarence Thomas would retire from the Court. Absent significant political pressure, alas, this is unlikely to happen. Ginni would never allow it.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. Ginni Thomas speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.