May 6th, 2013
10:23 AM ET
1 year ago

Clarence Thomas: 'The elites' had to approve a black president

(CNN) – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court's only African American jurist, opened up recently about his thoughts on race and the White House.

Asked if he ever expected to see an African American president in his lifetime, the conservative justice said he always knew "it would have to be a black president who was approved by the elites and the media, because anybody that they didn't agree with, they would take apart."

"And that will happen with virtually - you pick your person, any black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a black person will be picked apart," he said in an April interview at Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh, which aired on C-SPAN.

"You can pick anybody, don't pick me, pick anyone who has decided not to go along with it; there's a price to pay," he continued. "So, I always assumed it would be somebody the media had to agree with."

Thomas didn't mention President Obama specifically in his comments. Asked if he had met the 44th president, Thomas said the two have only met in passing.

"I don't do a lot of Washington and I'm not into politics, so I mean there's not that many occasion," he said, adding that they once shook hands at an inauguration to be polite. "But I've had no in-depth conversation."

Thomas is known for staying largely silent on the bench and has rarely commented on cases during his time in the high court.

"One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question," he recalled in a speech five years ago.

– CNN's Ashley Killough and Bill Mears contributed to this report.


Filed under: Clarence Thomas • President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (597 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    , adding that they once shook hands at an inauguration to be polite.
    -------------------------------------------------
    You just blew your "impartial" cover there pubic mouth.

    May 6, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    He is one to talk... Has he overtly helped any other African-American group or organization? It doesn't appear so. I would like to think that he would help give oppertunity for those of his group. This seems like he only cares for himself.

    May 6, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question,"
    -------------------------------------------------
    Another thing you've demonstrated by sounding like this is an "accomplishment" worth bringing to light let alone bragging about is your intellectual dearth.
    Based on some of your decisions, maybe you should've asked questions.

    May 6, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  4. Brian

    Not to mention the nearly 70 million other people too... I guess they are all elites?

    May 6, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  5. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Poor Clarence, whenever he opens his mouth he proves himself to be a self hating fool.

    May 6, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. Data Driven

    Well, the elites picked Thomas for Supreme Court, didn't they?

    As for never asking questions about cases in over 20 years now, it only illuminates his lack of openmindedness, his tendency to rule based on long-held prejudices, and his intellectual unfitness for the job.

    If you want to see Thomas portrayed in the movies, check out Samuel L. Jackson's interpretation in "Django Unchanged".

    May 6, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  7. johnny neptune

    Mr. Thomas is stating the obvious

    May 6, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  8. Carol

    How does he know that it wasn't the "elites" that put him on the Court? The average person certainly doesn't approve of him.

    May 6, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  9. Big_D

    Scalia's puppy. Now sit. Obama doesn't play by your rules Thomas, he is his own man. Obama is a man's man. He doesn't talk about it till it is over. He isn't the same failed politician we have had, he is more in the mold of Carter who many hate but don't forget that man had morals we have not seen since.

    May 6, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  10. lgbarn

    "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question," he recalled in a speech five years ago.
    ---------------------

    No matter what party you support, that comment shows that he should never have been on the bench. Ask questions so you can decide through judicial arguments. Imagine if every justice never asked a question.

    May 6, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. Steve R

    He brags that he can do his job without asking a single question. Correction. He can keep his job without asking a single question. He has fooled the people who want to be fooled.

    May 6, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  12. Ron

    What a disgrace to the Supreme Court. CT's rambling, non sense, views do not make sense. The presiden was elected by the majority of the people. Does he believe the majotrity is elite?

    May 6, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  13. Tanking

    Yeah, and the other half of the country didn't want him. Now more than half of the country doesn't want him, Brian.

    May 6, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  14. Pam

    He only cares for himself?? Because he doesn't belong to the Blank Panthers? He isn't a part of the Peacock channel and pounce on every single thing that isn't liberal? Because he worked his way to where he is and maybe he expects others to work hard to? Oh what hyprocrites you people truly are. It's ok for you to hate, for you to tear others down, for you to be intolerant, but it's NOT ok for anyone else to voice opinions.

    May 6, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. markiejoe

    Perhaps the most embarrassing U.S. Supreme Court judge in the history of this country.

    May 6, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. sly

    Us 47% are now 'elites'?

    I wish the Republicans would get their whining straight: are we filthy rich Obama-lovers, or poor, entitled Obama-lovers?

    Either way – one of the best Presidents ever – jobless rate plummiting, stock market 16,000, ended our Bush Oil wars, destroyed our 2 greatest enemies.

    Good Times for America. Thank you Mr. President.

    May 6, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  17. james

    Isn't this a case of the kettle calling the pot black.

    For someone who gets a tax payer provided salary for working 6 months out of the year, for someone who gets all of their medical expenses paid by the government, he should not be complaining about elites. He is one of them.

    May 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  18. John

    Should overtly help any group? Should we not all be equal? Impartial sounds good to me. I can trust someone who doesn't have an agenda.

    May 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  19. Davis

    Dude thinks being black is harder than it is. Elites and media have to approve anyone to be president. Doesn't matter your race. Try running on an anti-media or anti-elite platform and see what happens to your public image. Doesn't matter what color you are, they'll tear you apart.

    May 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  20. Homer10

    Uncle Clarence just invalidated every decision he makes from here on out. He has prejudiced himself. He should recuse himself from all decisions involving Obama from here on out.

    May 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. bannister

    SB Stein – I would say that Clarance Thomas has helped African Americans simply by becoming Supreme Court Justice. Where is the rule book that says a black man MUST be a liberal, MUST vote a certain way or MUST directly assist certain organizations? Sounds like slavery to me.

    Thomas is an individual. He thinks for himself. In that sense, he's LESS of an "Uncle Tom" than all the boot kissing black followers of leaders like Sharpton and Jackson who enrich themselves by being professional malcontents. I don't agree with everything the man says, but I respect his demeanor and his accomplishments. I say God bless him for it.

    May 6, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  22. Big_D

    Elites? Like the ones that donate to your wife's PAC then you mysteriously rule for?

    May 6, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  23. chill

    This guy is twisted. Hard to say he is doing his job. I suppose if you have already made up your mind about virtually everything, there isn't much need for questions. Last thing an ideolouge does is think things through. And no way of firing him if he doesn't.

    May 6, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  24. The Realist

    "Justice Oreo" stays silent because he knows he was unqualified to be nominated in the first place. He was "groomed" for the position, and has done exactly what was expected of him. When he left law school, he went directly into the corporate ranks, and never, ever, took a pro bono case.

    History will probably show that he did his worst damage prior to the Supreme Court, when, as a DC Circuit appellate judge, he granted the corporate ownership of genes.

    May 6, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  25. spudnik56

    Thomas is a joke....

    May 6, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
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