May 6th, 2013
10:23 AM ET
12 months 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. dsangiovanni

    That looks like the quote from an international terrorist from left or right about the USA system...So everything is controlled ? What about the people ? Elections?

    May 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. Daddy_2010

    MV already said it, but it needs to be emphasized.

    A judge should ask questions. A judge MUST ask questions.
    Anything less is a disservice to the people and the country.

    May 6, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Randal Flag

    "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question,"

    Hmm. Reminds me of the saying " Often wrong, never in doubt "

    May 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. pm Ohio

    Amazing, Clarence Thomas can't provide anything of substance when there is an arguement in front of him (a job for which he was given a lifetime appointment), but will go to the press to politicize the Supreme Court to offer opinions on things that he has no say in. Thomas shouldn't have been confirmed due to his old school sexism anyway. He's the worst example of a Supreme court Justice I have ever known.

    May 6, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. aam

    Justice Thomas is simply riding out his 'good government job' all the way until he doesnt need to. I am in favor of him stepping down.

    May 6, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. sam

    Thomas, selected by Republicans, not for his smartness, but for being dumb and supporting the Conservatives. Thomas the guy who had sex with women and the Republican Senators protected and lied for Thomas

    May 6, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  7. Steve P

    He's not black. He's 50% black and 50% white. He is as much white as he is black and he's just as much black as he is white. In that vane, historically speaking, that would make him somewhat of an outcast to many members of both races. Good grief, all of the "black" president stuff gets tiring. He isn't a black president. He's just a president.

    May 6, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. pm Ohio

    "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.

    In other words, you got a lifetime appointment to do nothing at all, except pander to the people who got you there...

    May 6, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. zeb

    Interesting... So Clarence Thomas was *selected* for the Supreme Court not because he was black, but President Obama was *elected* because he was black? And this guy is a member of the SCOTUS?

    May 6, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  10. DJDubya

    When the chosen representatives are idiots, there is a fairly obvious conclusion that can be reached about the choosers.

    May 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Keith

    Who are these mysterious elites? And their watchdog media? I mean, when I look at elections each year, it seems to me that right about 47% of the people vote for one guy, 53% for the other. And the party flip-flops from time to time. So, how is anyone elite there? If he's talking about rich people, surely that has nothing to do with party lines as the super rich skew heavily Republican. And who's the most-watched cable news in the country? It's not a liberal channel. So who, exactly is he talking about, and, why does he think they have any sway or power?

    May 6, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Balanced99

    So many angry and stupid posts.

    He makes a point – it's clear and it's justified. Obama gets relatively zero media scrutiny because of his political ideology. If Obama was black with conservative views – not only would the media have scrutinized him, they would have torn him apart.

    It's unprecedented – the way the fourth estate, in general, has completely turned it's head to scrutinizing Obama in any meaningful way, shape or form.

    Any black person with even slightly conservative views would have been picked apart day and night. Just think of this, and regardless of skin color.... The media failed to scrutinize Obama and his books at all. When S. Palin published a book, when she was no longer running for public office, the Associated Press assigned 12 people to fact check it.

    May 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Kita

    "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question."

    But that doesn't mean you should do it that way, Mr. Thomas, nor does it mean you're doing a very good job at it.

    May 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. iceload9

    If Thomas left the bench tomorrow, who would know?

    May 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. GnomicGarthe

    Judging from the negative comments, I'd say the animosity towards Thomas comes from his accurate assessment of Obama's character and credentials. People don't like the message so they shoot the messenger. In this case, the comments reflect a widespread denial that the electorate is easily lead and mislead by the political establishment and its media mouthpiece.

    May 6, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Oakspar77777

    A Justice who knows the wisdom of silence and careful thought mentions that a black man would be pulled apart by the media if he did not say what they wanted him to say.

    Followed by 9 pages of him being picked apart for what he says, since he is a black man and is not agreeing with the mainstream media.

    Every critique in these comments is a validation of the truth that he has said.

    May 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  17. OH VET

    Is it me or does CT almost always seems to have something negative to say? ijs!

    May 6, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  18. BigSir

    No need to ask questions? He is scaring me with that.

    May 6, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    And there you have it, folks: why Justice Thomas keeps his fat yap shut most of the time.

    "Every critique in these comments is a validation of the truth that he has said."

    Only in your circular logic universe, champ. Too bad for you that when you start from a faulty premise and manufacture it as self-proving in the first place, all you manage to do is bolster an invalid belief. Nice tinfoil hat, btw.

    May 6, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  20. Thomas

    @Oakspar77777
    A Justice who knows the wisdom of silence and careful thought mentions that a black man would be pulled apart by the media if he did not say what they wanted him to say.

    Followed by 9 pages of him being picked apart for what he says, since he is a black man and is not agreeing with the mainstream media.

    Every critique in these comments is a validation of the truth that he has said.

    ======

    Validation , OJ is innocent !

    May 6, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  21. Frank

    I am amazed that man is on the SC. He is such a lunatic.

    May 6, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    Go drink some hairy soda, Clarence.

    May 6, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. child of midian

    The last question Thomas asked "does that look like a pubic hair?" didn't go over well, so he stopped.

    May 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. kathy

    Justic Thomas is barely literate...read some of his dicisions BEFORE his clerks check his grammar and spelling!

    May 6, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. Texas

    Without a doubt, the Dimmest Bulb ever to sit on the Supreme Court.

    May 6, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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