Last month, at the beginning of Black History Month, Amazon took down a top-selling, award-winning documentary, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, from its streaming platform Prime. This film, about the life of the only sitting black Supreme Court Justice and the longest serving one in our nation’s history, was removed despite Amazon creating a massive streaming section to honor Black History Month.
Nearly a month later, Amazon still has not explained why, but every factor points to the ideological cancellation of one of the most important voices in America – simply because he is a black conservative voice. Both Congress as well as state attorneys general should demand an explanation from Amazon.
Created Equal, which was broadcast nationally on PBS last year, has been a top selling DVD in Amazon’s documentary section. It was number 1 last month and was in the top 5 this month. It would be doing even better, but Amazon has been slow to restock more DVDs, another sign Amazon is suppressing the film. Despite all of this, Created Equal is among the top three “most wished for” documentary DVDs on the Amazon site.
Hours after the news broke that Amazon had canceled streaming for the film, Created Equal rose to #16 of ALL movies on the Amazon website –including Hollywood blockbusters. The film’s website for the movie, JusticeThomasMovie.com, received more than a thousand orders. The movie was as high as #2 on the iTunes website in the documentary section. The film has a 4.9 (out of 5) rating on the Amazon website, and since Amazon took down the film from streaming, customers have added hundreds of more positive ratings, written glowing reviews and expressed outrage that Amazon canceled this film.
In stark contrast to Created Equal, many of the best-selling documentary DVDs on Amazon’s site are also streaming. Films on Frank Zappa, Aretha Franklin, Mr. Rogers and President Trump are streaming. RBG, the documentary on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is also streaming, though it is less popular than Created Equal.
Amazon’s decision to take this film down at the beginning of Black History Month and its refusal to put it back up for streaming despite intense consumer demand makes no sense from a market-based perspective. From refusing to stream the movie to being slow to restock, it appears that Amazon wants to make it hard for its customers to see this film. Amazon even makes it tough to find Created Equal in the DVD section. When you enter the terms “Clarence Thomas Created Equal,” in the movies section on Amazon, there were 22 items listed before the Created Equal documentary appeared, including three films on Anita Hill. This can’t be unintentional.
Perhaps there is a political motive as well. Then-Sen. Joe Biden, who chaired the Senate confirmation hearings on Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court, comes off the worst in Created Equal. Audiences always burst out in laughter at Biden’s ham-handed attempt to attack Thomas on natural law. You can watch it here and hear the audience’s reaction. Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, and Amazon may be trying to curry favor with the Biden administration by canceling this film.
Whatever the reasons, lawmakers and state Attorneys General should ask Amazon why they are using its market power to suppress this incredible film of an American hero. And customers should continue to call out Amazon for canceling this film and buy this film to learn about this great man – and to send a message to Amazon.
You can’t silence us.
Mark Paoletta was a lawyer in the Bush 41 White House and worked on the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. He is now a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Restoration. You can follow him @MarkPaoletta and @amrestorecenter.