Columnist and talk show host Armstrong Williams, struggling against a scandal over his acceptance of money from the Bush administration, is a harsh critic of Nevada’s senior senator.
“Has white liberal Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., no sense of decency?” Williams wrote in USA Today, paraphrasing the dramatic line addressed to Sen. Joe McCarthy by a Boston lawyer in 1954.
Armstrong was reacting to Reid’s criticism on Meet the Press of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Reid, discussing the court’s two most conservative members, said he could support Antonin Scalia for chief justice but not Thomas.
“I think that his opinions are poorly written,” Reid said of Thomas. “I just don’t think he’s done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.”
Williams unleashed a furious attack on Reid that characterized the senator’s comments as racially motivated (Thomas is African-American): “Without a dissenting peep from the high priests of blackness, white pundits indulge in racist calumnies against black conservative stars. [Cartoonists] Pat Oliphant and Garry Trudeau deride superstar secretary-of-state designate Condoleezza Rice as a parrot or as ‘brown sugar.’ Harry Belafonte maligns the gifted, courageous and accomplished Colin Powell as an ‘Uncle Tom.’ And now Reid, minority leader of the U.S. Senate, has sneered at Thomas’ qualifications for chief justice because his conservative thinking does not follow the dogmas of the anachronistic black power structure or patronizing doctrines of its white liberal counterpart. … The United States now confronts a modern edition of Jim Crow. If you are born white, you may aspire to achieve greatness as a liberal, conservative, moderate, independent or otherwise. There are no intellectual no-go zones. But if you are born black, your ambitions will be crushed unless you ape black power brokers.”
Reid’s view of Thomas’s legal scholarship is shared by many legal scholars, though one of them—Will Baude—recently wrote in The New Republic that Thomas is more than just Scalia’s protégé.
Williams received $240,000 from the administration, and in return he was required “to regularly comment” on the federal “No Child Left Behind” education law. He is a former assistant to Clarence Thomas and hosts a television show called The Right Side. This week, Editor & Publisher magazine reported that most of the publications that had contracted recently for Williams’ new newspaper column have dropped it since the scandal broke.