In a damning investigation by ProPublica, journalists uncovered a string of undisclosed gifts that flowed from Republican mega donor and real estate mogul Harlan Crow to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. For decades, Crow has been treating Thomas to luxury vacations, trips on his private jet and his super yacht, and has hosted him at his invite-only resort in the Appalachian mountains. But, notably, Crow also gave Thomas the gift of art.
Crow gave Thomas a portrait of the Justice and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, painted by Montreal-based illustrator Sharif Tarabay. The artist also painted Crow and Thomas in conversation with other men, with a large statue of a Native American in the background, though it isn’t clear if it was another commissioned gift by Crow. The works are done in a hyper-realistic fashion, with all of the glare and sharp texture of a photograph taken with a phone.
Included in Crow’s gifts was a $105,000 donation to the Yale Law School, Thomas’s alma mater, which was listed as “Justice Thomas Portrait Fund,” in tax filings accessed by ProPublica.
In a highly personal gesture, Crow commissioned a seven-foot bronze tall statue of Sister Mary Virgilius Reidy, a Catholic nun who was Thomas’s teacher when he was in eight-grade. The statue was unveiled in a Catholic cemetery in the suburbs of New York City. Mounted on a granite base, Sister Mary Virgilius Reidy stands over two young black children, staring deeply into the eyes of the boy.
One gift that Thomas did disclose was also of a religious nature, a $19,000 bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass.
In a statement by Thomas, he admits to having enjoyed the hospitality of his close friend and claims he followed ethics rules related to disclosure. However, he did not address the gifts of art or the commissioned and donated statue of Sister Mary Virgilius Reidy.