A Key Aspect of the Ginni Thomas Story

Beyond who her spouse is, the texts to Meadows reveal a deeply concerning situation.

“Ginni Thomas” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Setting aside (for the moment) that she is married to one of only nine members of the US Supreme Court, there is a deeply disturbing aspect of the Ginni Thomas text story. Note: I am setting aside her spouse’s day job not because it is unimportant (quite the contrary) but because I want to focus on the simple fact that Virginia Thomas is a multi-decade member of the GOP/mainstream conservative establishment. She is not some ragtag newbie/grifter that Donald Trump brought into the spotlight/into the government. No, she has been active in American politics for four decades.

She started her career working for US Representative Hal Daub in 1981. She has worked in the US Department of Labor, for US Representative Dick Army, and has spent decades working for various advocacy organizations like the Heritage Foundation. She had run a conservative-oriented consulting firm for over a decade (the website is here).

Certainly, she is conservative. Describing her as “right-wing” is fair. Further, I can understand how someone might look at her record and find her views extreme (and, therefore, want to dismiss the basic thesis of this post–but I would advise against letting one’s view of either Thomas cloud the basic point here).

It is striking to me is that she has deep roots in the mainstream of the party and the broader conservative movement. Further, she has direct ties to the government, both by working for members of Congress, serving in the executive branch herself, or, to mention her spouse, being married to 1/9th of the pinnacle of one of the branches of the federal government.

She has to tools to know fact from conspiracy theory. She has four decades of direct exposure. And yet, she fell for QAnon nonsense, as WaPo reported from her text exchange with Meadows:

The first of the 29 messages between Ginni Thomas and Meadows was sent on Nov. 5, two days after the election. She sent him a link to a YouTube video labeled “TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN.”

Pieczenik, a former State Department official, is a far-right commentator who has falsely claimed that the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a “false-flag” operation to push a gun-control agenda.

The video Thomas shared with Meadows is no longer available on YouTube. But Thomas wrote to Meadows, “I hope this is true; never heard anything like this before, or even a hint of it. Possible???”

“Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states,” she wrote.

During that period, supporters of the QAnon extremist ideology embraced a false theory that Trump had watermarked mail-in ballots so he could track potential fraud. “Watch the water” was a refrain in QAnon circles at the time.

I understand, to a degree, how someone living their lives, getting news from Facebook memes and snippets from talk radio/cable news talking heads might fall for this nonsense, but it is deeply troubling that someone linked to actual corridors of power would. And, to sire her husband again, was he unable to persuade her otherwise, or, more concerningly, does he believe this stuff, too?

In the Nov. 5 message to Meadows, Thomas went on to quote a passage that had circulated on right-wing websites: “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”

I am not suggesting that all married couples should be of the same mind, nor am I am suggesting as someone who has been married for over three decades, that a husband can control what his wife thinks. But I also find it very difficult to conceive a scenario in which he would treat this as some disagreement over where to go on vacation or what color to paint the dining room. Clearly, none of us knows the internal dynamic of their marriage, but the chances that he is influenced by all of this, or is at least sympathetic to his wife’s view is a genuine concern. I know this is the realm of speculation, but when one person has as much power as does a given Supreme Court Justice, there is some room for concerned speculation.

But, back to the main point about Ginni Thomas: it isn’t just that she supported Trump (as I have noted, as a point of explanation, not defense, in a system with two choices, lifelong Republicans were very likely able to rationalize support for Trump), it is that she has clearly bought into some of the more egregiously problematic aspects of the Trump era.

She bought into QAnon conspiracies (as noted above).

She thought (still thinks?) that Sidney Powell was credible.

“Just forwarded to yr gmail an email I sent Jared this am. Sidney Powell & improved coordination now will help the cavalry come and Fraud exposed and America saved.” 

[…]

“Don’t let her and your assets be marginalized instead…help her be the lead and the face,” 

[…]

“Sounds like Sidney and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down.”

She has been involved in American government, directly or indirectly, for over forty years and is willing to buy into this nonsense. Her husband is one of the most powerful men in America (and between that fact and her day job, is exposed to elites from both parties) and yet she is spouting QAnon!

Like so much in the last half-decade or so, this is perhaps not fundamentally surprising, but it is still stunningly disturbing.

I am not saying that I am necessarily surprised as a general matter (although it is honestly surprising to me that anyone with any level of education, let alone direct exposure to government, would buy into QAnon nonsense).

I am not saying that I thought that mainstream types would save the country from Trumpism (as it clearly had already abdicated).

But it is still concerning, if not profoundly worrying, to see this level of madness from someone who was clearly an ideologue, but one who is educated and with direct access to power. Further, seeing it at this level of the US government, even if only by marriage, is pit-in-the-stomach inducing.

To be clear: my point is not “how could Ginni Thomas, of all people, fall for this stuff?” It isn’t like I had any particular reason to assume that she was immune (or, really, any particular view of her state of mind). Still, the question of how bad things are is linked to how far certain categories of persons are willing to go this deeply into nonsense. The category, in this case, is conservative elite.

Stuff like this makes me think back to educated, elites in Latin America backing military takeovers:

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

That’s the kind of thinking that leads to coups, and to things like the January 6th insurrection.

And this really gets to the heart of a major concern that I have: if people like Ginni Thomas, who has every tool are her disposal to know the difference between fact and fiction, between reality and conspiracy theories, are not committed to even semi-rational examination of the facts, then this underscores the difficulties ahead of us.

In more general terms: this would appear to underscore the radicalization of at least some members of the political elite–and beyond those that Trump brought into government, but rather those who well pre-date him. This is actually more frightening to me than the fact that she is married to a Justice. The My Pillow guy is one thing, but if people firmly embedded in DC at the highest levels believe this stuff, excising it from mass politics will be all the harder.

I want to be clear: this post is not about me being shocked that some conservative elite believes nonsense. This post is about underscoring the way in which this story, which understandably focuses on who her husband is, is disturbing simply because of who Ginni Thomas is (or, more accurately, the type of person she represents) even without reference to her husband.

But, to return to her husband: the likelihood that she was not influencing him strikes me as extremely low. While I fully agree that spouses can be distinct intellects with their own views, the idea that there is some kind of Chinese wall between the two of them on politics strains all credulity.

At a bare minimum, Justice Thomas resides with a person of influence in his life, his “best friend” I would note, who is susceptible to the gross propaganda of conspiracy theorists. There is nothing calm, casual, or comforting about that observation.

Update. A thought to add to all of this, and which directly links to her husband’s job: if she really believes, as per the texts above, that “America’s constitutional governance at the precipice” then there is no way that she isn’t trying to influence her husband on this topic.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Supreme Court, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    The answer to the Ginni Thomas riddle would likely unlock why Putin believed that Ukraine would welcome Russian troops with open arms.

    As unsatisfying as it maybe as an answer, wanting something badly enough can cause the mind to believe odd things is support. Also unknown is, does she have any substance abuse issues, history of some mental illness or brain disease?

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  2. Kathy says:

    It’s very easy to lie to yourself. You know yourself rather well, and therefore know what lies you’ll believe. Also which lies align with your biases and prejudices, and therefore which ones you’ll be passionate about.

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  3. Scott F. says:

    …if people like Ginni Thomas, who has every tool are her disposal to know the difference between fact and fiction, between reality and conspiracy theories, are not committed to even semi-rational examination of the facts, then this underscores the difficulties ahead of us.

    How far is this, really, from the Republican Senators of the Committee on the Judiciary not knowing the difference between following federally mandated sentencing guidelines and their conviction that KBJ is pro-child pornography? (And yes, I know, many of these Senators were cynically putting on a show for their base, but OMG does that matter?)

    Once you’ve convinced yourself that the opposition is not just misguided on policy, but evil, how big of a leap is it to the bat-shit insanity of the fringe right? “Not far at all” is being demonstrated to us on a nearly daily basis these days.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    Goes back to Prof. Frankfurt and On Bullshit, which distinguishes between lies, which recognize truth while saying the opposite, and bullshit, to which truth is irrelevant. “Believe”, as most of us here at OTB understand it, has nothing to do with Ginni, or Mark Meadows who should have been even more aware this stuff was cray cray.

    The really good liars I’ve encountered are effective because they sincerely believe what they’re saying, if for no longer than the time it takes to say it. People like Ginni Thomas wouldn’t be like Ginni Thomas unless they were able to “believe” their own BS.

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  5. drj says:

    But, to return to her husband: the likelihood that she was not influencing him strikes me as extremely low.

    He might have radicalized her.

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  6. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Thanks, Steven. This is something I think we need to focus on, along with removing Clarence Thomas from the Supreme Court for corruption.

    What Ginni Thomas spouts in those emails is garbage. It is unhinged. We need to say plainly that large segments of the Republican Party have taken leave of reality. And then vote all Republicans out of office until they repudiate unhinged garbage and start acting like responsible citizens.

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  7. Paine says:

    This local story is a bit related. The wife of the Spokane County Prosecutor is a Q-anon spewing white nationalist:

    Anti-vaccine conspiracy posts are common. She posts a picture of herself calling the COVID-19 pandemic the “Scamdemic.” She shares a post claiming that “Globohomo” is after your kids. She declares she will never support a “mentally-ill” “transgender” for public office, no matter their politics. She reposts a Gab post that claims that after Black people are done helping “the regime” destroy “heritage America” they will have “only rap music, Nike shoes, abortions, and Marxist theory” left.

    In an interview request, the Inlander asked Larry Haskell whether his wife had expressed similar sentiments to him, whether he agreed with the sentiments, and whether he pushed back and tried to convince her she was wrong. The Inlander specifically noted that the question wasn’t about his wife’s legal right to express her opinion, but how he responded. Haskell did not respond to any of the Inlander’s specific questions, but sent over a statement.

    “The Inlander recently made me aware of social media comments attributed to my wife, which the Inlander finds concerning. In a right shared by everyone, I fully recognize my wife’s right to express her thoughts,” Larry Haskell wrote. “In a previous discussion regarding my wife’s social media postings, I stated such were hers, and hers alone. I acknowledged that she is a strong-willed person who will speak her mind. I do so again in this instance.”

    https://www.inlander.com/spokane/lesley-haskell-wife-of-spokane-county-prosecutor-calls-herself-white-nationalist-uses-n-word-as-slur/Content?oid=23162154#:~:text=January%2027%2C%202022-,Lesley%20Haskell%2C%20wife%20of%20Spokane%20County%20Prosecutor%2C%20calls%20herself%20‘,uses%20N%2Dword%20as%20slur&text=Lesley%20Haskell%2C%20wife%20of%20Spokane%20County%20Prosecutor%20Larry%20Haskell,at%20a%202017%20Trump%20rally.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    I’ve been troubled by this since I heard about it. And Gen. Flynn, who should have an even greater sense of what it plausible.

    In desperation, a person will believe whatever bullshit they need to believe in order to get where they want to go, so long as it doesn’t directly conflict with what they can observe. And even if it does conflict, they’ll grasp for any explanation no matter how stupid. Life is crappy, they’re under unmanageable stress, here’s an easy answer, they will latch onto it.

    Look at divorcing couples — often at least one of them is a acting like a complete loon, because the stress screws up their ability to think.

    It’s why some people turn to religion in times of crisis. And a lot of religions are compatible enough with reality that they help in individual navigate the difficult period. Having trouble accepting that your kid was devoured by mice? All part of God’s plan, but He’s a loving God and the kid is in a better place now with no mice.

    But, assuming that’s how someone like Gianni Thomas gets into Q, I have no idea what the stress is that leaves her vulnerable. And it has to be some stress that Q would solve.

    Donald Trump losing an election doesn’t seem like enough, plus she has almost certainly not just picked it up starting the day of the election.

    There is another thought that crosses my mind though, and this comes mostly from watching my brothers who have no access to any power (thankfully) — if you repeat bullshit as a joke or a cynically dishonest argument often enough, you just start believing it.

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  9. Gustopher says:

    But, to return to her husband: the likelihood that she was not influencing him strikes me as extremely low. While I fully agree that spouses can be distinct intellects with their own views, the idea that there is some kind of Chinese wall between the two of them on politics strains all credulity.

    About 70% of the time, it’s easier and just as accurate to view a married couple as a single unit. The number 70% was just pulled out of thin air obviously.

    My assumption is that Clarance believes the same bullshit Ginni does. Could be wrong, but I’d be more surprised by evidence that he doesn’t than that he does.

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  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    An evangelical take on Ginni Thomas from David French

    French writing at both the Atlantic and his own Substack has been highly critical of Trumpist evangelicals. French and Pete Wehner, writing also at the Atlantic and the NYT have done excellent work on why the Trumpist’s are wrong using the context of evangelical thought.

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  11. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    That was an interesting piece by French. I noticed, though, that French tried to argue that Clarence didn’t necessarily share Ginni Thomas’s sentiments, which seems a bit improbable to me.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Ginni Thomas was, in the early 1980s, a member of Lifespring, which she quit in 1985 after she came to regard it as a cult. She thereafter sought therapy and joined the Cult Awareness Network.

    Possibly she has some lingering affinity for groups such as QAnon.

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  13. dazedandconfused says:

    Supreme Court social mixers stand to be a wee bit awkward, I imagine. Gonna need a Qiddy table…

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  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    My read on French’s comments re CT, is that he wasn’t going to judge what CT knew or didn’t as he has no insight, but he wasn’t dismissing that CT could have been aware of GT’s actions. French is a litigator by profession and his reasoning toward CT is only to deal with what we know. Add to that the focus of his is really Meadows and the comment that upsets French is Meadows’ to GT.

    @CSK:

    Once a cultie always a cultie. Decades ago I was acquainted with a folksinger, named Jim Ringer. Ringer wrote a song that had the refrain “He used to take acid and now he loves God. But he still got that look in his eye.” https://youtu.be/i_f6RfthX8A

    Ginny may still have that look as well and that is probably the best explanation to Dr T’s query.

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  15. Barry says:

    Steven, I feel that there is a fundamental error in the foundation of your description:

    “She has to tools to know fact from conspiracy theory. She has four decades of direct exposure. And yet, she fell for QAnon nonsense, as WaPo reported from her text exchange with Meadows:”

    How about “She’s been as right-wing as the right wing of the GOP would allow for decades, and as that has drifted off into MAGA/Q, she’s gone there.

    This is not a fringe, this is the mainstream of the GOP.

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  16. dazedandconfused says:

    @CSK:
    Cal State compiled a lot of studies into the types of people most susceptible to cults and here’s a synopsis. It’s a bit disturbing and somewhat counter intuitive: Highly educated/well-to-do feature prominently.

    https://www.csueastbay.edu/philosophy/reflections/2010/contents/kayl-teix.html

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  17. CSK says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Thanks. The common denominator may be “seeking an identity” and/or “looking to fill a spiritual void.”

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    along with removing Clarence Thomas from the Supreme Court for corruption.

    I don’t think there is a universe in which this can happen. Moreover, the future for “[a]nd then vote all Republicans out of office until they repudiate unhinged garbage and start acting like responsible citizens” looks just as bleak.

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  19. Chip Daniels says:

    What’s important to remember about radical insurgent factions is that not all members are actually radical or unhinged.

    But tolerating the unhinged radicals is mandatory, giving them acceptance, aid and comfort.

    Not all Republicans are Christian Nationalists, but it is mandatory that those who are be tolerated and given deference.

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  20. Jen says:

    Two fairly random anecdotes from my own life:

    My parents have been married for around 55+ years. My father has drifted a bit further right (watches FOX, voted for Trump despite thinking he’s a bit of an ass), while my mom has drifted a bit more left. They don’t discuss politics (or, more precisely, my mother gets up and leaves the room when my father starts going on and on). They are both retired and don’t have any influence at all (not even with their offspring).

    This is not the dynamic I perceive with Ginni & Clarence Thomas. They are a DC power couple, and while George & Kellyanne Conway might be able to pull off some sort of “Clash of the Titans” effect, the Thomases appear to be of similar bent.

    Two: I’ve mentioned that I worked in politics, ages ago. One couple were friends–he was a state rep, she was getting a Masters when I knew them; we were close enough that I attended a baby shower. She eventually got her doctorate, and hosted a radio program (actually, in Alabama) and eventually a TV show. I knew them both as fairly fun, conservative-but-not-crazy people. She’s now a fully on board member of the Trump support network and holds significant positions in the whole Trump ecosphere.

    Which is a long way of getting around to: I think more people have been sucked into the whirling dervish of insane Q-adjacent than we’d like to acknowledge.

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  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Chip Daniels: True tho it is, that is a dawg damned depressing thought.

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  22. al Ameda says:

    I keep coming back to the fact that, for many years, Justice Thomas failed to disclose (on annually required Federal Disclosure Forms) that Ginni was a paid employee of the Heritiage Foundation (Heritage is often a party to cases that reach the Supreme Court. When this failure was brought to his attention he revised those filings. Apparently, like Trump, he is a consequence-free zone.

    Back in 1969 Justice Abe Fortas was forced to resign from the Court over ethics problems related receiving fees for university seminars. I’ve simplified the incident, but … It seems to me that Justice Thomas should have been forced off the Court for his failure to disclose potential conflics many years ago. That will not happen in this toxic political environment.

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  23. Jax says:

    @Jen: Whirling dervish has always been one of my favorite expressions for CucKOo CrAzY. 😛

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  24. Scott O says:

    We learn that Ginni Thomas is a serious nut case and articles are written. Good! Our last president said things just as crazy, frequently and publicly. Because he did it out in the open did we assume or hope that he didn’t really believe these things, that it was just rhetoric to stir up the base? I hate to say this but I think that if these kind of statements from Ginni had been revealed 3 or 4 years ago they would have been forgotten by now. It would be just another part of our new normal.

    Most of these articles have been about Ginni understandably because she said the really nutty stuff but should we not assume that Mark Meadows is just as crazy? He didn’t give a polite but dismissive “Thank you for your interest, we’re looking into matters” reply. No, he replied to her concerns as if they were logical.

    Once upon a I believed that most people were reasonably rational, that the serious nut cases were a small minority, 10 or 15%. Events over the last 5 years have made me question all my previous assumptions.

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  25. Ken_L says:

    Meanwhile the January 6 committee seems to have become bogged down in a maze of subpoenas and court cases and endless requests for further and better particulars. It shows every sign of having lost sight of the wood in its lawyerly determination to confirm the details of every single tree. It’s almost April, and it’s likely the potential impact of any public hearings it might hold grows weaker with every passing day. Any report it manages to issue is going to be so late in the year it will inevitably be regarded as part of the partisan mid-terms electioneering and lost in the general noise. There’s a non-negligible risk of it getting so paralyzed by the size of the task it’s taken on that it doesn’t finish anything useful by November, and ends up being disbanded next January without achieving a thing.

    The key elements of Trump’s coup attempt have been public knowledge for many months. Sadly, the committee has missed the opportunity to present them to Americans in a compelling, easily-understood narrative. It appears we are going to be subjected to a mind-numbing litany of detail instead, which will fail to hold the public’s interest. It will also present countless opportunities for Republicans to seek to discredit the entire project by attacking small components as lies or the work of leftist extremists, a strategy it has perfected over the years (e.g. their jeering dismissal of the whole Steele Dossier after Mueller found Cohen had never been to Prague).

    A terrible missed opportunity that makes one despair yet again of the Democratic Party’s political competence.

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  26. Not the IT Dept. says:

    What gets me about the the snippets that quote her is how giddy with excitement she is. She’s in the know, she’s got the key to the room where all the cool, with-it kids hang out and now she’s one of them and knows the same secrets they do. She’s hugging herself with glee, and thrilled that Mark feels the same way.

    You say she’s “a multi-decade member of the GOP/mainstream conservative establishment.” Is she, though? Is she one of those people who a candidate has to have on staff or on the campaign to provide quality support? Has she helped elect anyone – beyond the door-knocking, phone-banking level? Being one of the multitude of thousands of mid-level supporters, blocked from advancing higher because of her husband’s job, isn’t very exciting on a day to day basis.

    But now she’s a member of an Inner Circle, making profoundly important statements on the biggest event in American history. “Trump” is just another word in her comments; he doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the truth and she knows what it is!

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