The New York Times recently ran a lengthy feature that reported Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once accepted a Super Bowl ring from billionaire Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. But as a variety of outlets and Texas-based papers picked up on the claim, people close to Thomas say the gift was actually an inexpensive replica.
“I expect the New York Times to issue a retraction on this falsehood, and an apology to Justice Thomas,” Mark Paoletta, who co-authored “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his own words,” told Fox News Digital.
The Times published a July 9 story, “Where Clarence Thomas Entered an Elite Circle and Opened a Door to the Court,” that put a spotlight on his ties to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Jones, a longtime Republican donor, is a member.
“Jones gave him a Super Bowl ring. He attended the Cowboys’ training camp, and when the team played in Washington, he sat in the owner’s box,” the Times reported.
The Times report came amid a flurry of recent media stories about conservative Supreme Court justices and accusations they were selling influence.
Later that month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a story headlined, “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl ring. Why?”
The Texas-based paper used the Times’ report as the impetus for its own story questioning why Thomas was given such a lavish gift.
“The [Times] article claims Thomas rode on Jones’ private jet, attended Cowboys training camp and received a Super Bowl ring from Jones,” reporter Lawrence Dow wrote.
The Dallas Morning News had its own version, also parroting the Times’ claim.
Teton Capital CEO David Sokol, a member of the Horatio Alger Association who has known both Thomas and Jones for years, looked into the situation once it made national news.
“It was a replica ring,” Sokol told Fox News Digital.
“People are just looking for ways to attack conservative Supreme Court members,” Sokol continued. “They just run with stuff even when they know it’s not accurate.”
Fox News Digital spoke with a former staffer of Thomas who worked in his chambers at the time the ring was given to him, who also feels the Times misrepresented the situation.
“It was a replica, it had hardly any value. It was just used as a paperweight,” the person said on the condition of anonymity.
“I was there, I was working for the Justice at the time, and I can assure you it was just a replica,” they continued. “I saw it, I held it, I handled it.”
The Dallas Morning News later published a follow-up, “What Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said about the Super Bowl ring he gave Clarence Thomas,” in which a reporter asked the powerful NFL owner about the ring.
“It was an honor for him to give the rings out that year and for me to award him one and have one,’’ Jones told the paper.
Thomas was given the ring at a ceremony honoring the Super Bowl champs shortly after their victory.
It is unclear if the 80-year-old Jones was aware the Times reported that the ring was authentic, or whether or not the Dallas Morning News specified when asking about it. The Dallas Cowboys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Like the Times, the Dallas Morning News failed to mention that Thomas’ inner circle says the ring is a replica, instead focusing on the six-figure value of the authentic rings.
“It came to light during this reporting that the justice received a Super Bowl ring from Jones 29 years ago after the 30-13 win over Buffalo, a ring memorabilia experts estimate could be worth upward of $100,000 in today’s market given Thomas’ status,” the Morning News reported. “It turns out Thomas did disclose this gift from Jones on a 1994 ethics form filed with the court.”
The paper also got the Super Bowl wrong, as Thomas’ collectible is from the Cowboys’ victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, a 52-17 Dallas victory in January 1993. The Cowboys defeated the Bills in the following year’s Super Bowl as well.
The Dallas Morning News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Other websites also picked up the ring news, including Fortune, USA Today and NBC Sports.
Paoletta, a longtime friend of Thomas who worked on his 1991 confirmation, said this is “another one of those sloppy stories where reporters want to believe the most ridiculous allegations” against Justice Thomas.
“Justice Thomas appreciated receiving a replica Super Bowl ring from the Cowboys, and that’s all it was as is clear from the photos. He used it as a paperweight,” Paoletta said before asking, “How could New York Times reporters get this so wrong?”
Paoletta said Thomas is the focus of venom from the left due to his skin color.
“Justice Thomas triggers the Left because he is a Black conservative who has never bowed to the left’s demand that he thinks a certain way based on the color of his skin,” Paoletta said.
“It’s offensive and racist, but that’s what the Left demands. And the media have now amped up these attacks and smears because Justice Thomas’ jurisprudence is now consistently garnering a majority on the Court,” he continued. “This has nothing to do with ethics, it’s all about trying to undermine the Court’s integrity now that it is no longer acting like a super legislature implementing left-wing policies.”
The Times has been on a crusade against Thomas in recent weeks with headlines including “Clarence Thomas’s $267,230 R.V. and the Friend Who Financed It” and “How Supreme Court Justices Make Millions From Book Deals.”
As of Tuesday, weeks after Paoletta publicly stated the ring is a replica that “sells for about $25 on eBay,” the Times has not updated its original story.
The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Justice Thomas’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Fox News’ Gabriel Hays contributed to this report.
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