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Deadline’s Doc Talk Podcast: Director Michael Kirk On The Long Strange Trip Of Clarence Thomas From Malcolm X Fan To Supreme Court Conservative

It’s unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would have adopted a code of ethics, as it did this week, without a series of revelations about Justice Clarence Thomas and his appetite for first-class vacations paid for by a wealthy Republican friend. Consider it another example of Thomas’ influence on the Court. 

Thomas and his wife Ginni are the subject of the Frontline documentary Clarence and Ginni Thomas: Politics, Power and the Supreme Court, directed by Michael Kirk. The multiple Emmy-winning filmmaker is our guest on the latest edition of Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast.  

Kirk’s investigative documentary explores what many consider to be Thomas’ questionable ethics – he did not report on federal disclosure forms that Republican activist Harlan Crow footed the bill for fancy holidays enjoyed by Thomas and his wife, or that Thomas sold a house to Crow in Savannah, GA, where the Justice’s mother, Leola Williams, continues to live.  

But the documentary is about much more than Thomas’ ethics or lack thereof. It details his hardscrabble upbringing in Georgia and the evolution of his politics: At one stage of his life, Thomas’s hero was actually Malcolm X. Kirk tells Doc Talk how and why Thomas’ political views changed over time, and how the foresighted Yale-educated lawyer realized that by playing his cards right – meaning, carrying the water for Republican presidents and members of Congress – he could land a seat of the highest court in the land. 

The film also examines Ginni Thomas’ background – so radically different from her future husband’s. There’s been quite an arc to her personal journey too, from involvement in Lifespring, an alleged cult, at one stage in her life, to becoming a conservative true believer who worked hard to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.  

It’s a conversation you don’t want to miss on the latest edition of Doc Talk, our podcast hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley and Deadline’s Documentary Editor Matt Carey, produced by Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios and presented with support from National Geographic Documentary Films.

Listen to the episode above. 

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