Ken Burns would like you to know he doesn’t hang out with Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas and Ken Burns definitely don’t hang out, according to Ken Burns.

Credit: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images; Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

A new ProPublica story features a photo of filmmaker Ken Buns with Clarence Thomas and David Koch.
Koch helped fund at least one of Burns’ films, and has donated money to public television for decades.
But Burns released a statement making it clear he doesn’t know Thomas.

On Friday, ProPublica published its latest investigation into Clarence Thomas, revealing that the Supreme Court justice had secretly attended at least two donor summits for the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers.

But more shocking to many was the lead photo, which featured star PBS documentarian Ken Burns sandwiched between Thomas and David Koch. The caption noted Koch’s financial support of Burns’ films.

Burns’ name began trending on Twitter shortly after the story’s publication, in part because some people were apparently unaware of his connection with David Koch. While the late Koch brother’s financial support of public television is nothing new — the New Yorker reports he’s been donating for over three decades — the association of Burns with Thomas seemed like it might be. 

Word of the story and the minor controversy generated by its photo clearly made its way to Burns, and within hours his spokesperson released a statement denying any relationship between the filmmaker and the Supreme Court justice.

“Around ten years ago, Ken was stopped and asked to take a photograph with a Supreme Court Justice and David Koch, who was a supporter of public television and would later provide some funding for his film, ‘The Vietnam War,'” a spokesperson for Burns said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “So he took the photo, as he has done with many, many others. Other than the taking of that photograph and innocuous pleasantries, that’s the extent of his contact with Justice Thomas.” 

So now we know: Ken Burns and Clarence Thomas are not pals, according to Burns.

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