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. Jeffrey Cox

    Given the blatant conflict of interest in his voting on the Citizens United and ACA rulings, how is it that this clown has not been impeached?

    May 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  2. strgzer585

    Give Thomas a break; Scalia wrote this piece for him and he never read it before submitting it. Kind of like all his SCOTUS positions.

    May 6, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  3. Paul Smith

    Clarence Thomas spoke? You mean, he's actually awake and saying something? Now THAT'S news.

    May 6, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  4. faboge

    "i dont get into politics" LOL What is more political than being involved in fundraisers for congressional candidates?

    May 6, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  5. kpotter7

    All those people the republicans tried to block from voting were elites? Really? The ones who depend on their churches to bus them to the polls? The ones who need extended hours at their polling places because they have to work during regular hours? and on weekends? These are America's elilte?

    May 6, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  6. Joe

    "Uncle Thomas" speaks! As an African-American, I am sure I speak for 90 percent of other African-Americans in viewing him as the typical sell out! He is a joke to us and an apologists, that's why republican whites love him!

    May 6, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. really...

    So... Justice Thomas CAN speak. Good to know. What a waste of a good robe.

    May 6, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  8. local

    Yes Clarence, ignorance is bliss. You are a living example.

    May 6, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  9. Sam

    Did Scalia give him permission to say this?

    May 6, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  10. dfakdfjkd

    Clarence Thomas is still bitter. His comments validate that. Get over it Clarence.

    May 6, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. dzerres

    Thomas proves a couple of things: 1. we need a limit to judicial appointments – 20 years MAX, 2. that old adage about it being better to remain silent than to speak up and prove you're an idiot is certainly the case with this Uncle Tom.

    May 6, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. Fourjz

    Clarence Thomas is a great American.Him being on the court proves that America has come along way.

    May 6, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. Nick

    Justice Thomas is simply speaking the truth, something progressives/liberals don't like. Anything that counters the progressive racial narrative will be immediately attacked, as we've seen with any number of conservative blacks that have spoken out. Never mind that progressive policies have completely failed to lift minorities out of poverty while bankrupting the country.

    The truth will out.

    May 6, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. HuckleberryTeacher42

    Said the sexual harassment Supreme Court judge...

    May 6, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. John the Historian

    We all know Clarence Thomas is a joke. He has no intellectual curiosity. Rarely asked oral arguements. He ex-girlfriend also a judge says he has dry drunk syndrome. He did have porn prescription. Other women he harassed were not allowed at his confirmation hearings. His wife is big teaparty spokeswoman and fight against Affordable Health Care act. He only votes the way Scalia votes. He should resign immediately.

    May 6, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. cmh01

    He's not into politics, or any of that judgy type of stuff.

    May 6, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  17. Codestud3

    He's right. He's right. He's right....

    May 6, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  18. JimW Statesville, NC

    Sir, I take exception to your proclamation. I do not consider myself an elitist and I wanted to see Mr. Obama elected and reelected as our president. I am a 63-year old white male and I am a Vietnam war veteran, I believe in the right to own arms and whatever else that would make me the poster child of the anti-elitist crowd. This great country of ours has been driven into the dirt by the GOP and the TP'ers for the past two decades and I wanted it to stop. Mr. Obama offered an alternative to the divide and conquer mentality of the right wing. Even though people like yourself say he is weak and not a good leader, I say you are wrong! We're moving again despite all your crowd has done to hold us back.

    May 6, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  19. Teller

    This from a man CHOSEN for his position by ELITES.

    May 6, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  20. Arun

    I second that motion Jeffrey Cox!! The right wing of the supreme court is a joke!! In regards to citizend United, if corporationa are people, then why haven't we gone after them for what they did in the financial market. This issue resides with both the democrats and repubes. Wall Street owns both parties!!!

    May 6, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  21. Lenny Pincus

    His kind of victimhood is so childish. Oh, it's so dangerous for a black man like him to go against the grain, isn't it. Poor Clarence. His "up against the man" attitude got him a seat on the SCOTUS. What a joke this guy is.

    May 6, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  22. mike

    Every person picked for office is "vetted" by the elites. Remember, we are not allowed to chose anyone, but just one of two. Thomas is a bad joke, on the rest of us.

    May 6, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  23. Jewels

    He looks so angry - all the time. Lighten up man...

    May 6, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. kuewa

    The Elites, whoever they may be, also wanted a smarter Supreme, but Clarence Thomas was chosen instead.

    May 6, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  25. Jewels

    BTW, he did support corporations donating to parties, right? Special interests has caused the most corruption one could ever expect in this country. Good Job buddy.

    May 6, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
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