In recent years, Thomas' TV Dinner role was disputed by former Swanson and Campbell employees, frozen food industry officials, and Swanson family heirs, who said the product was created by the Swanson brothers, Clarke and Gilbert. (M. Crawford Pollock, who was Swanson's in-house marketing chief at the time, was also said to have played a role.) After Thomas' death in 2005, a Los Angeles Times opinion article that labeled him a "charlatan" spurred other newspapers to reexamine the TV Dinner's origins.. As a result, dozens of publications printed retractions on obituaries that had called Thomas the TV Dinner inventor. The New York Times said that although Thomas was "widely reported to have had the inspiration, there have been competing claims, including one from the Swanson family that W. Clarke Swanson, an owner of the company in the 1950's, had the idea. However, Pinnacle Foods, which currently owns Swanson, still credits Thomas with proposing the TV Dinner concept. And an Arizona Republic editorial termed the debate over his TV Dinner involvement "surprisingly vindictive.
The Library of Congress says the history of the TV Dinner is murky, but notes that frozen dinners existed several years before Swanson made the idea famous.