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Opinion: Clarence Thomas has had enough of ‘hideous’ DC. The open road is calling the justice

Opinion by Dean Obeidallah

(CNN) — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wants everyone to know that he has had enough of the “nastiness” of Washington, DC. That was Thomas’s clear message Friday at a judicial conference that morphed into his own personal gripe session, as he went after critics who, he says, “pride themselves in being awful.”

Thomas — taking a page from former President Donald Trump’s over-the-top victimhood —equated the criticism with wartime bombing: “They don’t bomb you, necessarily, but they bomb your reputation or your good name or your honor. And that’s not a crime but they can do as much harm that way.” Thomas capped this off by calling Washington “a hideous place.”

It’s true that in recent years the justice has been rightfully criticized for his ethically questionable actions. Pundits — me included — have been relentless in calling out Thomas’ ethical issues from accepting lavish gifts from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow to his refusal to recuse himself from cases related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol despite his wife Ginni’s personal efforts to help Trump overturn the 2020 election results.

But in this sea of despair for Thomas comes a shining ray of hope: John Oliver. Yes, the comedian and host of the Emmy Award-winning HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” has come to Thomas’ rescue with a generous offer.

On his show in February, after Oliver detailed the litany of ethical issues surrounding Thomas, the comic directly addressed the justice, saying, “We have a special offer for you tonight.” The comedian then delivered the terms: “We are prepared to offer you $1 million a year for the rest of your life, if you simply agree to leave the Supreme Court immediately and never come back.”

Before you — or Thomas — dismiss this as a comedic barb, Oliver made it clear this was a concrete offer, explaining: “This is not a joke. If you watch our show, you know jokes aren’t really our thing. This is real. A million dollars a year — until you or I die.”

But wait, there is more. Oliver also offered Thomas a $2.4 million motor home as part of the deal. And to be clear, this is not any motor home. This a top-of-the-line luxury RV that has been outfitted with a king-sized bed, a fireplace and four televisions.

If you are wondering why Oliver would include a luxury motor home, this gift has special meaning: As Oliver documented on his show, recent reporting by the New York Times revealed that in 1999, Thomas purchased a high-end motor home — a used Prevost Le Mirage XL Marathon that was 40 feet long “with orange flames licking down the sides.”

But what raised ethical flags was that the cost of this top-of-the-line cruising was underwritten by a wealthy friend. No, not Crow. This time it was Anthony Welters, who made his riches in the health care industry. As reported in August 2023, Welters “provided Justice Thomas with financing that experts said a bank would have been unlikely to extend.”

That prompted the Senate Finance Committee to investigate the financing. By December, the committee said their staff found that the documents provided by Thomas’ lawyers indicate that the justice “did not repay the loan in full, raising questions about tax and ethics compliance.”

In a Senate floor speech this February, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island noted, “It appears from the Finance Committee’s investigation that the principal on the loan was never repaid — not a dollar of it… yet the forgiveness of that loan was never declared on his judicial ethics filings, suggesting that it might not have been disclosed even in his tax filings, which could lead to a whole second set of legal concerns.”

But there goes my “nastiness” — as Thomas would call it — for calling out the ethical issues by a sitting Supreme Court justice who rules on cases that affect business interests, as well as many facets of our lives.

Let’s get back to what should make Thomas happy: Oliver’s offer. Now the bad news for Thomas was that when Oliver made his very generous offer in February, he noted that the justice had 30 days to respond. Obviously, that time period has passed.

But here’s the great news for the beleaguered Thomas. This past Monday, Oliver appeared on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” where he re-upped his offer. As Oliver stated directly to Thomas, in case the justice was watching, “If you want to get in touch and open up the negotiations again, I still have the contract in the drawer in my desk, and I’d be willing to do that.”

And Oliver said he was not kidding. It even has legal experts talking about whether Oliver can make such an offer. “Honestly, I’d open it up again,” Oliver said, adding, “As long as he gets out before they’re doing the June decisions. I would be willing to open discussions again.”

This couldn’t have come at a better time for Thomas. On Friday, Thomas even said he liked to visit other places where people “don’t pride themselves in doing harmful things merely because they have the capacity to do it.” Well, what better way to visit these other places than in the brand new $2 million-plus RV with $1 million in your pocket?!

As Oliver stated on his show in February summing up his offer to Thomas: “A million dollars a year and a brand new condo on wheels, and all you have to do in return is sign the contract and get the f–k off the Supreme Court.” For the good of Thomas’ psyche — and for the good of America — let’s hope he takes it.

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