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. RoadScholar

    Ummm... Isn't a fair statement that ANY candidate these days has to be approved by the "elite?"

    I'm just sayin'.

    May 6, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Thurgood Marshall, rest your soul, you were the BEST! Thomas could NEVER fill your shoes, even on a good day!

    May 6, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Goodguy6410

    I think that Clarence Thomas embodies in many ways how hard it is for a conservative black man to succeed despite the countless piranha looking to bite him. Smart, measured, calm and cool. I have much admiration for him.

    May 6, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. Eileen

    I cannot believe he brags about never asking a question. It shows he has no intellectual curiosity. How can you weigh in on the weighty decisions that affect the country w/out asking a single question? Reminds me of when they ask "W" to reflect on his years in the White House. He said he doesn't reflect and that's for someone else to figure out. Two mental giants NOT!

    May 6, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. happyfrenchman

    Tea Party history FAIL... I see some tea baggers on here trying to rewrite history again... the tea party did not exist without Obama.... from Encyclopedia.... "The catalyst for what would become known as the Tea Party movement came on Feb. 19, 2009, when Rick Santelli, a commentator on the business-news network CNBC, referenced the Boston Tea Party (1773) in his response to Pres. Barack Obama’s mortgage relief plan. Speaking from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Santelli heatedly stated that the bailout would “subsidize the losers’ mortgages” and proposed a Chicago Tea Party to protest government intervention in the housing market. "
    Show me a tea partier, and I will show you someone who voted two times for Bush.

    May 6, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  6. happyfrenchman

    The catalyst for what would become known as the Tea Party movement came on Feb. 19, 2009, when Rick Santelli, a commentator on the business-news network CNBC, referenced the Boston Tea Party (1773) in his response to Pres. Barack Obama’s mortgage relief plan. Speaking from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Santelli heatedly stated that the bailout would “subsidize the losers’ mortgages” and proposed a Chicago Tea Party to protest government intervention in the housing market. . No Obama, no tea party.

    May 6, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  7. skarphace

    Mr Howdy Doody III: "What the Judge is saying is that Obama is A MEDIA PRESIDENT!"

    Yes, that is a part of what he is saying, but what of it? All Presidents, since the invention of the radio and even more so since the invention of television, have been media Presidents. Media is the outlet that Presidential candidates must make use of in order to get the support they need to win the election. If you think this trend is going to stop, then you are kidding yourself.

    In addition, even if you could make the case that media is no longer unbiased, then you still can't make the case that media is always biased towards Liberals. In fact, the most powerful American media company is very conservative. Therefore, Clarence could and probably would have made the exact same argument if Romney would have won.

    Therefore, as always, CT is speaking alot of words but in fact saying nothing at all.

    May 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  8. mark

    This interview gives an opinion of Clarence Thomas, making that one more opinion than he's ever written while sitting on the Supreme Court. Scalia's lapdog, indeed.

    May 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. Vern Wrotten, Truth Seeker!

    Incredible ... another " Brilliant " observation from Uncle Thomas ... who has the Intellect of a " Pet-Rock " and the Cowardice of " Ted Nugent! "

    May 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  10. realoldguy

    When conservatives talk about "elites" they mean "smart people" - how particularly pathetic when the phrase is used by Clarence Thomas!

    May 6, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  11. John

    It is incredible to me, that there are so many elites in this country, considering the fact that President Obama was elected twice by a majority of those that voted. Clarence, how does it feel to be one of the "little people"?

    May 6, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  12. The Truth Hurts

    I do not see a single thiing that Homas said that can be refuted by any thoughtful, semi intelligent person.

    May 6, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  13. UDidntBuildThat

    I love Justice Thomas!! The media and the elites tried to destroy him and he still prevailed. He speaks fr experience and he is telling the truth! God bless him.
    Don't agree look what the media did to Herman Cain. The same playbook fr the Dems. when they tried on Justice Thomas. Too bad Cain did not have the strength to stay in the race!

    May 6, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. UDidntBuildThat

    Look how all of you attack him? You just proved Justice Thomas' point!

    May 6, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. skarphace

    Clarence Thomas seems to have two arguments here. First, he is saying that "The Media" supported Obama and helped get him elected. Second, he is saying that "The Elites" gave approval for Obama to become President and without their approval, he would not have.

    Both of his arguments have flaws. In both groups, "The Media" and "The Elites", there are both Liberals and Conservatives. Sure, the Liberals in each group, for the most part, supported and approved of Obama, but the same cannot be said of the Conservatives in each group.

    Therefore, CT's implication that everbody in "The Media" and of "The Elites" supported and approved of Obama is baseless and missleading, at the very least.

    May 6, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. JOhn

    Im surprised they posted this on CNN, but i guess they did it to put him down. Although what he said was true, any president has to be approved by the Media and the powers to be in order to become president, and part of it is bowing down to the ones who control the U.S like Israel

    May 6, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Absolutely!

    Judge Thoms is one thousand percent correct. Furthermore, it's the MEDIA and ENTERTAINMENT WORLD elites - those who are not interested in truth, but in fantasy and quick, colorful soundbites. And the elites' sheep are equally happy, because with fantasy and sound bites one doesn't have to think anything through to any great degree! How sad for our country - a comic book presidency!

    May 6, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  18. skarphace

    UDidntBuildThat: "Don't agree look what the media did to Herman Cain."

    Give me a break. Hermain Cain was not even close to Presidential material. He had no business whatsoever being on the same platform as most of those other candidates (Michelle Bachman notwithstanding).

    May 6, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. skarphace

    The Truth Hurts: "I do not see a single thiing that Homas said that can be refuted by any thoughtful, semi intelligent person."

    In other words, anybody who disagrees with your point of view is ignorant and stupid? Where have I heard that argument before? Oh yeah, just about any time I hear an ultra-conservative make an argument.

    May 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Clarence Thomas (graduate of Yale Law School) IS one of the "elites!" What the hell is he talking about?

    May 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  21. duke

    For those of you who thinks this Justice is silent in the court because his mind is made up you are ignorant as to how this court works.

    Most Justices go into the Supreme Court with some leaning or inclination. They've already been reading numerous briefs presented by both sides as well as amicus briefs from groups supporting each side. The actual arguments in the Supreme court are minimal. One side may only have 25 minutes to speak. So, yeah he probably does have an indication before the trial. They all do.

    May 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  22. Catori

    And yet, Obama just ran against the elitist and elitist-supported Mitt Romney.

    Does his person really have the reasoning ability to sit on the SCOTUS ?

    May 6, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  23. RobertOKUSA

    Clarence...It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

    May 6, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  24. m123

    Elites
    YOu mean the rich
    Because no matter how much any party spins it, whoever spends the most money wins.

    May 6, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    Yet another way of turning everything on its head...black is white, right is wrong, up is down...brought to you by another conservative ideologue who lives in Oppositeville, Nation of Backwards.

    "I've had no in-depth conversation"

    Indeed. Most of think you aren't terribly capable of having one in the first place.

    May 6, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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