A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Objectively speaking, Donald Trump’s loss in 2020 should not still be “news” in 2022.
But the Big Lie keeps getting bigger, so here we are.
On Thursday CNN broke the news that the 1/6 committee possesses text messages between then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. About twenty minutes later, the Washington Post and CBS News published a joint story by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa with explosive details from the texts. This banner on the “CBS Evening News” summed it all up in eight words: “JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS’ WIFE PUSHED TO OVERTURN ELECTION.” CNN’s team quickly matched the details and updated this story. There are so many layers:
– Crazed conspiracy-mongering. As Abby Phillip put it, “the wife of a sitting Supreme Court justice [is] trafficking in some seriously loony conspiracies here.” Thomas was sending QAnon-type garbage to the WH chief of staff like it was totally normal…
– Catastrophizing rhetoric. One of the many Thomas texts to Meadows, from one week after Election Day, said Meadows and Trump were “standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.” This was end-of-the-world style talk…
– Conflict of interest? The messages “do not directly reference Justice Thomas or the Supreme Court,” The Post noted. But as CNN’s story said, the revelation “comes as progressives and some legal ethics experts see her activism as a potential conflict of interest for Justice Thomas’ work on some Supreme Court cases…”
– Health concerns. “The Supreme Court on Thursday did not respond to inquiries about the health status of Justice Clarence Thomas and whether he remained hospitalized after being admitted late last week,” The Hill’s John Kruzel wrote hours before the texts were published…
– A new SCOTUS nominee. All of this is garnering headlines while Senate Democrats are moving to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court…
– Democracy under assault. Concerns about the fragility of the US political system have taken a back seat to daily coverage of the war in Ukraine, but stories like this one underscore the domestic risks that have not receded…
Part of a “mass delusion event”
Careful, close-up reporting after 1/6 documented that some Trump loyalists were utterly delusional. (I’ll never forget Jeffrey Goldberg, who walked alongside insurrectionists as they marched to the Capitol, describing that day as a “mass delusion event.”)
The texts from Thomas rang the same bell. She shared fringe YouTube videos and far-right memes with Meadows, according to The Post. “All of the ‘stolen election’ stuff is ridiculous,” Daniel Dale tweeted Thursday night, “but there are levels of the ridiculous, and she appears to have been immersed in the Lindell-caliber stuff.” As NBC’s Jason Abbruzzese wrote, “We have to really reckon with the reality that some very powerful people are being warped by this stuff.”
Thomas wrote on November 10, 2020 that Meadows should “Listen to Rush. Mark Steyn, Bongino, Cleta” – referencing multiple right-wing radio hosts. Media personalities perpetrated the Big Lie for months. Networks shouted fabrications and only whispered corrections. More than a year later, we’re still finding out new info about the consequences…
What will the 1/6 committee uncover next?
“The committee is in possession of only one text from the month of January 2021, four days after the riot on Capitol Hill,” CNN’s team reported. It was a text from Thomas declaring “we are living through what feels like the end of America. Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in a listening mode to see where to fight with our teams.”
CNN’s Ryan Nobles put the story into proper context on “Erin Burnett OutFront” Thursday night: “This is the wife of a Supreme Court justice suggesting that Mike Pence, the vice president, should have stood in the way of a certification of the election results. It is now part of the January 6 investigation.” As Jamie Gangel has previously said on the air, the full archive of Meadows’ text messages are a treasure trove for the 1/6 committee… And the public has only seen a small sample so far…
– Silence from the parties involved: “CNN reached out to both Meadows’ attorney and Thomas directly for comment and have yet to hear back. A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment…” (CNN)
– Costa on the “Evening News:” “Will Ginni Thomas be issued a subpoena by the Jan. 6 committee? We’ll be watching that in the coming days…”
– Eric Deggans wrote: “So…GOP senators will eat up long minutes in a confirmation hearing asking Ketanji Brown Jackson irrelevant questions about CRT. But when a story breaks that the wife of a sitting SCOTUS member sent texts urging the overthrow of a fair election…crickets?” (Twitter)
– Doug Heye tweeted: “This is scary, looney tunes stuff and raises real questions about Thomas’ rulings/potential conflicts. Conservatives shouldn’t be scared to say so.” (Twitter)
– S.E. Cupp: “I know it seems like forever ago, but remember when American citizens attempted an actual effing coup at the Capitol to overturn a democratic election and pretended it was ‘patriotism’ to ram an American flag into a police officer and a former president is still defending them??” (Twitter)
– In other Meadows news this week: “Wife of Mark Meadows appears to have used invalid address on North Carolina voter forms…” (CNN)