Clarence Thomas in 1991.

Thomas in a new book reflected on criticism he faced after being nominated to the Supreme Court.
“They have to make you into somebody who you’re not,” he told “Created Equal” co-editor Michael Pack.
The jurist compared critics whom he deemed as untruthful to the gnats he dealt with growing up in Georgia.

Justice Clarence Thomas in a recently released book said that his opponents tried to turn him into “something that is repulsive” after he was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1991, comparing them to the gnats that were part of his formative years in Georgia.

In the book, “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” co-edited by Michael Pack and Mark Paoletta, the jurist sat down with Pack for over 30 hours between November 2017 and March 2018, in what became an expanded companion to the 2020 documentary of the same name.

Thomas, who was nominated to the court by then-President George H.W. Bush to replace the civil-rights pioneer Thurgood Marshall, said that political attacks on him started “immediately” after his name was revealed.

“They have to make you into somebody who you’re not,” he said. “You have to be reduced to this little object. And I don’t know whether the right word is reified, but it’s just to be made into an object, and made into something that is repulsive, reduced, so they can’t see you as a human.”

Thomas’ reflections on that period of his career mirror a statement from his 2008 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” where he articulated how he felt as various politicians and groups railed against his nomination.

“I couldn’t be defeated without first being caricatured and dehumanized,” he said in the memoir.

In the new book, Thomas spoke of his childhood in Georgia, comparing various political actors in Washington, DC, to the gnats he endured while working outside.

“If you have ever been down in the southeast U.S., and particularly in Georgia, you are consumed by little gnats, or sandflies. Some people call them ‘No see’ems.’ But they swarm around you, they can be very distracting, and you have to learn when you’re down there to work with these things around you. They sting a little bit, too,” he said.

“The only difference is that these gnats, the ones on [Capitol] Hill, are lethal. They are swarming like gnats, but they’re lethal gnats, and that’s the way you felt,” he added.

Thomas then recalled the mindset he employed when he was preparing for the Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

“How do you prepare? How do you read cases? How do you sit down and think when you’re being surrounded by gnats? When I was picking beans, or peas, out in the field, being around gnats, and learning how to continue working, and not being distracted with these gnats, maybe it actually prepared me to deal with these people, because you learn how to sit and read,” he said.

“I mean, binder after binder after binder, on the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, law review articles, even while people are trying to destroy you. And that was the situation: we were swarmed by gnats, but still having to sit down, and think, and get your work done,” he added.

After Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment during her time working with him at the US Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the spotlight on Thomas grew even more intense.

Thomas vigorously denied Hill’s allegations during the hearings, and was confirmed to the high court in  October 1991.

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