Harlan Crow says he and Clarence Thomas are ‘just really friends,’ calls reports ‘factually inaccurate’ while confirming some transactions

Harlan Crow is discussing his friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas.
Chris Goodney—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Harlan Crow, the billionaire whose name shot to national prominence upon reports of his relationship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is speaking out about their decades-long acquaintance and the interactions that some argue violate ethics laws surrounding the nation’s highest court. In an exclusive interview with the Dallas Morning News, Crow defended the friendship and said recent coverage has been “factually incorrect” and “a political hit job,” while confirming that they were involved in an undisclosed real estate transaction. (Crow previously confirmed the vacations they took together.)

The revelations stem from two bombshell ProPublica reports that established Thomas’s failure to disclose decades of lavish gifts from Crow, including a real estate deal between the two in which Crow acquired and renovated the house where Thomas’s mother lives, apparently rent-free.

Crow said he and Thomas have been friends for 27 years, and there is nothing improper about that. “A lot of people that have opinions about this seem to think that there’s something wrong with this friendship,” he said. “You know, it’s possible that people are just really friends. It blows my mind that people assume that because Clarence Thomas has friends, that those friends have an angle…Clarence Thomas is one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s a man of incredibly high personal and moral standards.”

On buying Thomas’s mother’s house, Crow said he assumed Thomas’s mother was the owner. (ProPublica reported the sale proceeds were split among Thomas, his mother, and the family of Thomas’s late brother.) Crow repeated what he told ProPublica, that his plan was to one day turn it into a museum honoring Thomas.

Regarding the improvements to the home, he said he had added a carport for her to park in and possibly fixed some smaller issues, such as a broken toilet, but that was the extent of any improvements.

Crow says he would never try to influence Thomas on political matters and said they actually disagree on some big issues (he noted he is “pro-choice,” while Thomas is not). Instead, he said, they most frequently talk about their kids and Crow’s dog Otis, of whom he said Thomas is fond.

“Do you think I would try to influence him about my point of view on that matter?” he asked, referring to abortion. “No, of course not. That’s insane,” he told the Morning News. “We have different points of view on that and probably other issues.”

He also brushed off reports that he was a “megadonor” to Republican causes, estimating he has donated “in the low number of millions in the past five years.”

Crow also addressed the coverage of his collections of artifacts, which include Nazi and Communist items. He is, he said, a student of history and wanted to create a library of anything that relates to American history. To present the positive elements of the country, he continued, it was necessary to show the negative parts of history as well.

“Yes, I have things from bad guys,” Crow said, but he says recent coverage highlighting his group of “dead dictator” statues and a painting by Adolf Hitler doesn’t accurately reflect his collection or interest in world history.

“My mom was on a ship that was sunk by Germans during World War II,” he added. “If you try to kill my mom, I don’t like you. I mean, that’s reasonably obvious. And so the idea that I could have sympathy for Nazism is insane.” He said his collection of dictators grew out of an attempt to commemorate the end of the Cold War. “When [Mikhail] Gorbachev was the leader of Russia, and the world changed overnight, I decided that it might be possible to get a statue of [Vladimir] Lenin to commemorate that era…and our Cold War with Communism.” Lenin was his first statue, and then he says he sent a buyer around Eastern Europe for statues of other Communist leaders. “Ultimately, I ended up buying—I don’t know the exact number, but call it 15 or some number like that.”

While he has a fairly prominent business profile (Crow Holdings is a major player in the American real estate industry, with its multifamily development arm, Trammell Crow Residential, ranked the fifth-largest developer in the U.S. in 2022), Crow says he has no desire to become famous and does not like the attention the story has brought upon himself and his family.

“I don’t like people—particularly businesspeople—who constantly want to bring attention to themselves. I think it’s a lot about ego. And I just don’t like that,” he said. “I want to go to Schlotzsky’s or Arby’s, those are my kinds of places, and be a regular person.”

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