Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas contested a ProPublica story featuring “a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas,” telling a close friend that it never happened.
On Aug. 10, ProPublica published a report that oil baron Paul “Tony” Novelly’s chauffeur in the Bahamas said his company once drove the justice to the marina where Novelly’s 26-foot luxury yacht, the Le Montrachet, often docks.
However, on Friday, Mark Paoletta, a Schaerr Jaffe law firm partner and close friend of Thomas, contested the claim in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed.
“ProPublica’s claim that Justice Thomas was a passenger on any yacht owned by Tony Novelly, including the Le Montrachet, is completely false,” Paoletta told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “He has never ever laid eyes on this boat. Moreover, Justice Thomas has never been in the Bahamas with Tony Novelly.”
“He last visited the Bahamas in the 1980s, long before he went on the Supreme Court and long before he met Mr. Novelly,” he continued. “There is not a shred of truth to this story.”
The trip to the Bahamas is one of 38 destination vacations ProPublica claims Thomas has taken in a recent article detailing gifts he received from wealthy friends. ProPublica alleges that three of Novelly’s former yacht workers said they remember Thomas coming aboard Novelly’s yachts “multiple times.”
“Our reporting on Justice Thomas’ trip to the Bahamas was based on multiple firsthand sources,” ProPublica editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg said. “We asked Justice Thomas about this trip and he did not respond. We take any allegation of error seriously and our policy is to correct any inaccuracies as quickly as possible.”
In the op-ed, Paoletta said that Thomas once walked onto the Daybreak, a different yacht that Novelly co-owns, taking a tour of the engine room and spending about 30 minutes on board in total.
“That’s the only time he has set foot on a boat owned by Mr. Novelly,” he wrote.
Paoletta also disputed other elements of ProPublica’s story, including the facts surrounding a standing invitation that Thomas was offered for an exclusive, members-only golf club as well as the value of a seat at a football game, which Thomas attended with business executive David Sokol.
In a Twitter thread, Paoletta discussed the two instances, writing, “[ProPublica] smears Thomas on attending Nebraska football game and claims he was required to report ticket as gift. It’s price of ticket in suite that’s relevant for reporting & ProPublica left that out. It was $65 for that ticket, well below $415 reporting threshold.”
He then turns to the discussion of the golf club, saying that ProPublica “makes much of Wayne Huizenga golf course & how he offered Thomas lifetime membership. They left out Thomas turned it down. He doesn’t even golf. His entire connection is having lunch at club once a year for 5 years w/ his friend Huizenga and Thomas in-laws.”
ProPublica notes in its article that it “has not identified any legal cases that Huizenga, Sokol or Novelly had at the Supreme Court during their documented relationships with Thomas, although they all work in industries significantly impacted by the court’s decisions.”
It is worth noting that an article from the Daily Caller, which reviewed ProPublica’s tax documents in June, revealed that the outlet’s biggest donors, such as the Sandler Foundation, which launched the outlet, also fund several groups calling for Thomas to be investigated or resign.
A majority of experts cited by ProPublica in its stories on Supreme Court justices, many of whom alleged the justices were responsible for ethics violations, have histories of donating to Democratic campaigns and left-wing causes, according to Federal Election Commission records.
“ProPublica is leftwing billionaire funded attack dog website that is doing bidding for its donors (they won’t disclose 25% of its funding) to undermine Supreme Court now that Court is no longer acting like super legislature implementing progressive policies, like abortion,” Paoletta wrote on Twitter, saying they “only started looking at Justice’s travel after the Dobbs decision. First they attack Thomas, the only black conservative on Court and long-time opponent of Roe v. Wade. And then they attack Justice Alito, author of Dobbs. That should tell you everything.”
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