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Sens. Cruz, Cotton, Colleagues Condemn Amazon for Removing Justice Clarence Thomas Documentary

April 30, 2021

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week led a group of 18 other senators in a letter to Jeffrey Bezos questioning why Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, a documentary about the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was removed from Amazon's streaming service. The film's removal came during Black History Month. Co-signers of the letter include Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

In the letter, the senators wrote:

"Created Equal tells the uniquely American story of Clarence Thomas's rise from poverty in rural Georgia to serving on the highest Court in the land, where he has spent three decades as the Constitution's staunchest defender. PBS broadcast the documentary nationally, and more than 92% of its 1600 Amazon reviews gave the documentary five stars. The documentary was significantly outperforming other comparable documentaries, including documentaries on liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. The popular demand for Created Equal was so strong that, even after Amazon made the film unavailable to rent or buy through the streaming service, the film's DVD sales hit #1 in the "Documentary" category and #16 in the "Movies & TV" category.

"The film's popularity aside, Amazon's decision to pull this documentary came during Black History Month-a time when Amazon was celebrating its own effort to ‘Amplify Black Voices' with a ‘collection of titles to honor Black History Month across four weekly themes (Black Love, Black Joy, Black History Makers, and Black Girl Magic).'"

[...]

"Amazon's decision to cancel from its streaming service a documentary that celebrates the longest-serving and highest-ranking African American public servant in America suggests that what Amazon actually seeks to do is ‘Amplify Liberal Black Voices,' while silencing any who disagree-including and especially the great Justice Clarence Thomas, a genuine ‘Black History Maker."

Read the full text of their letter here and below.

April 29, 20021

Mr. Jeffrey Bezos
Chief Executive Officer
Amazon.com, Inc.
410 Terry Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109

Dear Mr. Bezos:
We write concerning Amazon's latest effort to target conservative Americans. On February 8, 2021, in the middle of Black History Month, Amazon removed from its streaming service the critically acclaimed film, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words-a documentary about the inspirational life of Justice Clarence Thomas, one of our greatest living Americans and the longest-serving African American in the history of the United States Supreme Court.

Created Equal tells the uniquely American story of Clarence Thomas's rise from poverty in rural Georgia to serving on the highest Court in the land, where he has spent three decades as the Constitution's staunchest defender. PBS broadcast the documentary nationally, and more than 92% of its 1600 Amazon reviews gave the documentary five stars. The documentary was significantly outperforming other comparable documentaries, including documentaries on liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. The popular demand for Created Equal was so strong that, even after Amazon made the film unavailable to rent or buy through the streaming service, the film's DVD sales hit #1 in the "Documentary" category and #16 in the "Movies & TV" category.

The film's popularity aside, Amazon's decision to pull this documentary came during Black History Month-a time when Amazon was celebrating its own effort to "Amplify Black Voices" with a "collection of titles to honor Black History Month across four weekly themes (Black Love, Black Joy, Black History Makers, and Black Girl Magic)." Amazon's decision to cancel from its streaming service a documentary that celebrates the longest-serving and highest-ranking African American public servant in America suggests that what Amazon actually seeks to do is "Amplify Liberal Black Voices," while silencing any who disagree-including and especially the great Justice Clarence Thomas, a genuine "Black History Maker."

Elsewhere in Amazon Prime's movie descriptions, Amazon celebrates the FBI's most wanted terrorist Joanne Chesimard, who murdered a state trooper in cold blood, as a "fantastic feminine freedom fighter" and hails the Weather Underground-a literal terrorist group-as "radical politics at its best[.]" Both films remain available for streaming today.

These decisions suggest that Amazon removes documentaries that feature conservatives while keeping documentaries that celebrate criminals and terrorists. And despite repeated inquiries by media outlets, the filmmakers, and would-be viewers, Amazon appears to have made no effort to explain otherwise.

As members of the U.S. Senate, we have jurisdiction over issues relating to antitrust, technology, the First Amendment, and censorship. We therefore request answers to the following questions:

  • Why did Amazon remove Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words from its video streaming service?
  • When was the decision made to remove Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words from the video streaming service?
  • Who made the decision to remove Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words from the Amazon video streaming service? 

Please provide your written response as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 PM on May 13, 2021.

/s/

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