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I’ve been intrigued by the reaction to Clarence Thomas’s memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. I’ve read it, in part because I’m working on a book that looks at a group of men, including Justice Thomas. The media reaction to Thomas’s PR push is what has intrigued me the most.
One target is 60 minutes, which did a positive profile of Thomas on the program. Interviewer Steve Kroft even came out and said: “He’s not anything like the public’s perception of him … He’s very good natured, somebody you would like to spend time with … (and) he’s considered one of the most popular people in the Supreme Court building.”
(Though it’s not true that he hasn’t done an interview in 16 years. He spoke with me for an interview that appeared in BusinessWeek earlier this year.)
How many journalists have reacted to the book is a direct reflection of how they view Thomas. The New York Times, in particular, seems to have focused on being critical — with humorous opinion pieces, negative editorials and a piece by Anita Hill. Various pundits on Fox News and conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh were more glowing in their treatment. (Limbaugh called it “a powerful, motivational, inspirational memoir”)
I personally enjoyed the book, though I’m probably more likely to be labeled a liberal than a conservative in most quarters. (And I’m a daily reader of the New York Times) The book is biased but that’s what memoirs tend to be — the view of the person writing it. Had Thomas chosen to sit down with someone from, say, the Times, might the reaction there have been somewhat more muted?
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