IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Harlan Crow doesn’t get the Clarence Thomas problem — or doesn’t want to

The GOP billionaire reportedly said it was “kind of weird to think that if you’re a justice on the Supreme Court, you can’t have friends.” No one thinks that.


Being rich doesn’t make you smart. But it’s hard to believe that Harlan Crow is this dumb.

The Republican billionaire and benefactor to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told The Atlantic in an exclusive interview published Monday that it was “kind of weird to think that if you’re a justice on the Supreme Court, you can’t have friends.”

That would be kind of weird to think. If anyone thought that. But no one does.

Subscribe to the Deadline: Legal Blog newsletter for weekly updates on the top legal stories, including news from the Supreme Court, the Donald Trump investigations and more.

Of course, anyone following the Thomas/Crow affair even in passing knows that the issue isn’t about having friends. Rather, part of the problem stemmed from Thomas’ failure to disclose gifts emanating from that friendship. The Atlantic summarized ProPublica’s bombshell reporting as revealing that the justice had received “various goodies from Crow, including luxury vacations on Crow’s yacht and jet, private tuition for Thomas’s grandnephew, and a real-estate deal with fishy particulars. Crow bought a house owned by Thomas. Thomas’s mother lives there rent-free.”

That investigative reporting led the Senate to look into the matter, though both the Supreme Court and Crow himself have stymied congressional attempts to examine the relationship and related ethics issues on the court, which lacks a binding code of conduct.

Again, everyone can have friends. It’s probably even a good idea.

But to think that that’s the issue is, to use Crow’s words, kind of weird.

Harlan Crow at his Highland Park residence in Dallas, Texas, on Oct. 2, 2015.
Harlan Crow, shown at his Dallas residence in 2015, has spoken with The Atlantic about his relationship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.Chris Goodney / Bloomberg via Getty Images file