New York Times readers can agree to hate Clarence Thomas

“It’s Been 10 Years. Would Clarence Thomas Like to Add Anything?” is a New York Times article from February 1. The 1000+ comments are interesting due to the confidence with which NYT denounce the Supreme Court judge as incompetent and/or stupid. Clarence Thomas also comes in for criticism from readers who believe that he lets his clerks do the hard work while he skates.

As it happens, my life as an expert witness brought me into contact with one of Thomas’s former clerks. This attorney was tops in his class at a first-ranked law school and is now one of the top patent litigators in the United States (i.e., he leads cases where fees on both sides may exceed $30 million and hundreds of millions of dollars may be at stake). His portrayal of Thomas was more or less the opposite of the readers’ comments. Thomas was brilliant, funny, collegial, and a good manager of the clerks. Thomas did most of the legal analysis and relied on the clerks to fill in details. In other words, at least according to one expert who had an entire year to see what was going on, Thomas excelled at the portion of the job where the law is actually made (though of course the other justices don’t necessarily agree with him).

Why would Times readers assume that, simply because Thomas disagrees with them regarding the interpretation of the Constitution, Thomas is therefore stupid, lazy, and incompetent?



  1. Jackie

    February 13, 2016 @ 1:47 pm


    The majority of NY Times readers are well educated East Coast liberals, who often live in bubbles such as Manhattan or Cambridge and have little exposure to conservative points of view. College professors are overwhelmingly liberal. As far as they are concerned, being intelligent and being liberal are synonymous – any well educated, intelligent person will “naturally” be attracted to liberal points of view, similar to their own. Therefore, conversely, if you are a conservative, you must be stupid because if you were intelligent you would be a liberal. QED.

    Now in order to reach this conclusion you have to commit several logical fallacies (e.g. the Pauline Kael fallacy – how could Nixon get elected if no one I know voted for him?) but humans don’t operate strictly according to the rules of logic so it’s easy for them to fall into this trap.

  2. alanc

    February 13, 2016 @ 1:58 pm


    NYT is the new Pravda.

  3. Jack

    February 13, 2016 @ 3:11 pm


    As a lawyer, I have been following the NYT’s disparagement of Justice Thomas for several decades and think that at bottom it is just racism. Here’s a black man from a very humble background who graduated from Yale Law School and managed to rise to the top of his profession yet he does not believe that the path to success for other black men is waiting for help from the largely white government. Here’s a black man who does not believe that racial preferences are either good public policy or constitutional. That makes him a traitor to the cause, which is a heresy the NYT wont forgive. I recall a column from some years ago where the NYT criticized Justice Thomas for failing to follow in the footsteps of Thurgood Marshall, as if all black men were required to think the same.

  4. George

    February 13, 2016 @ 3:18 pm


    I was pleasantly surprised when I read several of Thomas’s non-political opinions. He was very clear and to the point, and much better than most of the opinions of the other justices. He also has a more coherent philosophy of constitutional law.

  5. Smartest Woman on the Internet

    February 13, 2016 @ 5:52 pm


    I am not a fan, but liberals also said G.W. Bush is “stoopid”!

  6. Smartest Woman on the Internet

    February 13, 2016 @ 5:55 pm


    Oh, and by the way. US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this afternoon while hunting in TX. Liberals and the NYT vilified him as well, and will likely continue to do so.

  7. philg

    February 13, 2016 @ 9:39 pm


    I don’t think that the New York Times coverage of Scalia was in any way comparable. Reporters and readers disagreed with Scalia’s opinions but they did not assert that he was incompetent, unequal to the job, or unintelligent.

  8. Kaisha Jackson

    February 15, 2016 @ 9:37 am


    Of course they hate him. If you’re black you must conform or else. By definition, the liberals (and the left as a whole, here and everywhere else in the world) put the group above the individual.

  9. Vince

    February 15, 2016 @ 1:32 pm


    I clicked on the link and saw that there are around 1,200 comments. I read roughly the first 100. You missed an important point, which is that a lot of the animosity towards Justice Thomas stems from the whole Anita Hill harassment saga. Also, there are plenty of comments that defend Thomas. And Jackie above is wrong about where the commenters live. There appear to plenty from the South, the Midwest, and California.

    Regarding the substance of the criticisms, there are some commenters who state that participating in oral arguments is an important part of the job. Of the comments that I read, maybe 1 or 2 percent asserted that “he lets his clerks do the hard work while he skates.”

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