Rep. Byron Donalds went on CNN Thursday night and spoke with host Abby Phillip. The Florida MAGA Republican representative’s job was to offer subterfuge to the news network’s audience by speaking around the disaster his political party is these days.
On the topic of Republicans in the news, Donalds spewed GOP word salad in defense of conservative political failures, like the impending debt ceiling debacle. But the first order of business for Donalds was to mislead the public about corruption scandals, like the growing ethical morass engulfing radical right-wing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Phillip did an excellent job of calmly walking through Donalds’ heavy word-count-per-second obfuscation of the facts, and Donalds, for his part, did a good job of pretending he wasn’t being called out for misrepresenting mountains of evidence.
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Phillip started by asking Donalds about the newest story of the day: billionaire Nazi trinket collector and Clarence Thomas’ best friend, Harlan Crow, paying tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew. The honest answer here would be to just say that Thomas’ relationship with billionaire Republican donor Crow is, at the very least, problematic.
Instead, Donalds argues that 1) the reports are possibly fake news, 2) the only people who should be investigating is the Supreme Court, and 3) everybody does it. Never mind the Supreme Court hasn’t said one word about an investigation of Clarence Thomas’ relationship with Harlan Crow. But Donalds has about 1,000 words’ worth of misleading statements left to run through, including saying, “We shouldn't be trying to impugn his character based upon a report from a couple of media sources. We have seen time and time again through media sources that these things typically don't pan out.”
Phillip points out to Mr. Donalds, “the details of the report have been largely confirmed. Harlan Crow confirmed that he made these payments. And one of the interesting things is that Justin Justice Thomas did disclose one of these payments at one point, but not all of them.” Thus, Donalds’ attempt to cast ProPublica as fake news is moot. Donalds pivots here to say that the judicial branch of the government must deal with its own mess—even though it has not done so in—checks watch and calendar—forever.
Having reached the end of what passes for the high-minded Republican talking points on corruption, Donalds reaches down into the bottom of the barrel of rhetorical whataboutism, to say, “And we have instances where there are justices who have not disclosed things that should have been disclosed in the past. That has also occurred.” Phillip calmly interrupts to ask whether or not Donalds has an example of non-disclosures by justices.
Donalds quickly mentions an old story about Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s “nomination filing” of financial disclosures, which Donalds presents as a brand new revelation but forgets to mention the story comes from September 2022, when Justice Jackson’s “inadvertently omitted” money she received from a seminar she taught at George Washington University in 2014 for $1,765.
The difference between Judge Jackson’s missed disclosures of a couple of thousand dollars (that she subsequently disclosed herself) from almost a decade before she was on the court, and Clarence Thomas’ potential millions of dollars in gifts and luxuries he’s received while being on the Supreme Court, that he has still not disclosed officially, is such a large gap it’s a wonder Donalds doesn’t fall through a rip in space and time after he says it.