A recent quote from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas highlighting his alleged love for vacationing in “Walmart parking lots” has gone viral after an investigation revealed his history of lavish trips.
As exclusively reported by ProPublica on Thursday, documents and interviews show that for more than 20 years Thomas has taken luxury vacations bankrolled by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow.
The trips, which included the use of the Dallas businessman’s superyacht and private jet, have never been publicly disclosed. ProPublica notes that “the extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“He has gone with Crow to the Bohemian Grove, the exclusive California all-male retreat, and to Crow’s sprawling ranch in East Texas,” the article states. “And Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks.”
But perhaps one of the most viral aspects of the story is a quote made by Thomas in a recent interview for a documentary, partially financed by Crow, about his life and career.
In the clip, Thomas paints himself as most fond of vacations to “regular parts of the United States.”
“I prefer the RV parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that,” Thomas says. “There’s something normal to me about it. I come from regular stock, and I prefer that—I prefer being around that.”
Thomas was quickly criticized across social media for what many felt was hypocrisy and deceitfulness.
“It’s an open secret that Thomas’ ‘man of the people’ shtick is bogus,” Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern wrote. “But until now, we haven’t seen just how far from the truth it really is. Thomas says he hangs out in Walmart parking lots while accepting million dollar luxury trips around the globe.”
The revelation even led Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) to call for the passage of legislation designed to stop such gifts from being given.
“Why did Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas keep these ultra luxury gifts from a GOP donor secret? Because Justice Thomas knew it was wrong to accept these secret gifts,” Lieu asked. “I call on @SpeakerMcCarthy and Chair @Jim_Jordan to pass the Democrats’ Supreme Court Ethics Bill.”
For regular Twitter users, however, Thomas’ invocation of Walmart was nothing more than condescending.
“‘I love hanging out in Walmart parking lots’ is fucking hilarious as a rich guy’s idea of what a regular joe does for fun,” one user wrote. “Just naming the first working class place that comes to mind and guessing they probably hang there, in the parking lot.”
Ethics law experts, according to ProPublica, say that Thomas’ failure to report his activities could violate a law passed in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal that requires government officials, including justices and judges, to disclose such gifts.