Clarence Thomas’s Billionaire Sponsor Owns Some Weird Nazi Stuff
1:16 PM EDT on April 9, 2023
Earlier this week, ProPublica released a damning investigation of the many extravagant gifts Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has accepted over 25 years from Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican megadonor with a name like a villain from the Louis Sachar book Holes. Thomas accompanied Crow on various private planes and superyachts to hang out in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, as well as the life-sized Hagrid's hut on Crow's private resort.
Like many other inordinately wealthy men, Crow pours an obscene amount of money into a collecting hobby, and this week, the Washingtonian published a baffling list of some of the artifacts that litter the megadonor's Dallas mansion. Crow collects Nazi memorabilia, including Hitler stamps, delicately folded linens embossed with swastika designs, a copy of Mein Kampf signed by Hitler, and two (extremely mid) cityscapes painted by Hitler. (No word on if he has Hitler salt and pepper shakers.) An anonymous source who attended an event at Crow's house several years ago told the Washingtonian the Hitler painting was hung, without context, next to a painting by Norman Rockwell. And this is just what's inside Crow's home. His garden is also riddled with statues of 20th-century dictators, such as one depicting a meeting of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong amid green shrubbery.
As the news of Crow's Nazi trinkets breached the internet, an assemblage of weird and bad guys swarmed to lick his proverbial jackboots, including newly minted NYT columnist David French, who tweeted, "The idea that he's a Nazi sympathizer is utterly ludicrous. He abhors tyranny, from fascism to communism to everywhere in between." For everyone who has not abhorred tyranny by showing off their signed copy of Mein Kampf at a dinner party and then dabbing their lips with a plain white napkin (the swastika napkins are presumably for display only), this is the kind of plainly ludicrous reasoning that only emerges to protect our most uniquely demented failsons. (Crow's dad, Trammell Crow, built the real estate empire through which a Supreme Court justice can now do private Harry Potter cosplay.)
Crow's possession of some of these artifacts came to light years earlier, in a 2014 story in the Dallas Morning News that frankly was not adequately concerned with the billionaire's backyard militia of despots (and even noted Crow has a statue of a despot he openly admires, Lady Margaret Thatcher, displayed right outside a window). When asked about the dictators in his garden, Crow demurred:
Crow, a very wealthy man, has taken hits for this collection. It is not an art collection, he explains, but a historical nod to the facts of man’s inhumanity to man. To men, and a few women, whom democratic societies — if they know the history of the 20th century — call evil personified.
Who among us has not amassed and subsequently displayed a hearty assemblage of objects that recall the facts of man's inhumanity to man? As if living alongside artifacts from the perpetrators of genocide was a common human interest! Museums collect and display fascist memorabilia for educational exhibits, accompanied by slabs of text explaining the context of these objects, the great cruelty behind them, and the horrors they caused. But I simply do not believe any single individual collects Nazi memorabilia in their own home for any other reason than their own personal interest in Nazis. Even if Crow had noble intentions (he doesn't), hoarding such distasteful items from the trauma of the Holocaust is still a painfully stupid waste of money. Everyone knows Louis XVI's hair is the much sounder investment!
It is both morally repugnant and somewhat unsurprising that one of the most powerful people in the nation is kept in the pocket of a man who is so deeply and financially committed to remembering Hitler and the Nazi regime. But I do think there is another, subtler lesson to be gleaned from all of this: If you ever find yourself in the house of a red-faced Republican billionaire, go ahead and rifle through some drawers and take pictures. And then get the hell out!