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. Bill

    Sorry "Bill" but Thomas is not the first black Supreme Court justice. Thurgood Marshall was and he was a true hero.

    May 6, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  2. sftommy

    It's not just black people Clarence, it's anyone. Which is as it should be. People ask questions to learn and the trick is to ask the right questions so one does learn, who a person is, what they're about and what they hope to accomplish. It is only through such question and answer sessions that we can determine whether someone represents my "best interest" as an American leader or not.

    May 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  3. dean patrick

    OK OK OK! Elites would be the people who looked at the GOP candidates and their running mates in 08 & 12, started to choke on their vomit and went with the alternative? Is that what Clarence is talking about as the "elites"? When Palin was chosen by the McCain team my first thought was-must be a throw away election this cycle...they COULD NOT BE SERIOUS!
    After the Bushwacking there was NO chance the Executive Office would go to Republicans.

    May 6, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  4. el_cr

    Well, there's a news flash for ya!

    May 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  5. cedar rapids

    How does Thomas not fit his own idea of what makes an 'elite'?
    Bizarre that 'elite' has apparently become a nasty slur, used to denigrate someone these days.

    May 6, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  6. Tom

    You voted for Obama because the elite media didnt tear him apart like they did Bush. You only think you made your own mind up. You were lead to voting for Obama like a herd of sheep.

    May 6, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  7. Merritt Shepard

    Clearance Thomas – Antonin Scalia’s ventriloquist dummy.

    May 6, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. DARNELL

    Shhh... be careful, the dims can't handle the truth.

    May 6, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. jokerman

    @Tom. I believe that Obama ran against McCain in '08 and Romney in '12. Bush had already been term limited by then.

    May 6, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  10. sally

    Clarence Thomas is Scalia's boy...rarely says anything...just rubber stamps everything Scalia does. Of course, he doesn't like Obama who cares a for the common man and represents average Americans. Thomas is a traitor to his own race, not because of his comment about Obama but because he has never made one decision which is in the interest of average Americans!!!!!

    May 6, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  11. Dav M

    The U.S. military could have prevented one wave of the deadly attack on American personnel in Benghazi if fighter jets had been promptly deployed, a top diplomatic official who was in Benghazi during the Sept. 11 assault told congressional investigators.
    Obama is always so confused ;he is a failure and threat to Americans everywhere.

    May 6, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. Tom

    Justice Thomas has distinguished himself on the bench for his unrelenting silence. It may have been wiser to follow this trend publicly as well.

    May 6, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  13. sick of republican phonies

    "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question", said Thomas. He did not say that he demonstrated that he could do the job WELL, however.

    May 6, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  14. DaVID IN TEXAS

    Is this guy serious? "I can do my job without asking questions"?

    May 6, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  15. EGB2

    Clarence Thomas' comment that he's demonstrated "you can do this job without asking a single question" is laughable. Nothing in Thomas' background or performance on the bench suggests that he's competent to be there. Thurgood Marshall, on the other hand, was already a legendary litigator and Solicitor General before he ascended to the Court, and zeroed in on issues through his questions to counsel.

    May 6, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  16. judith

    A Supreme Court Justice with a wife knocking down a big salary doing the bidding of the billionaire Koch brothers is not part of the "elite." Thomas is clearly living in fantasyland–but that's the bubble that all right-wing extremists call "home." No surprise here. He also denies the will of the people–all of those who voted for Obama twice. What an ignorant and clearly deluded man.

    May 6, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  17. GBfromOhio

    A Supreme Court justice using the lame "media" line, sad. I guess Fox News was all in for Obama eh LOL? It's a shame Thomas does not have half the intellect that Obama has, history win not be kind to this man.

    May 6, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  18. Cathy

    No Clarence, the American people wanted Barrack Obama, it was the elites that wanted you. I guess they got their money's worth too.

    May 6, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  19. WildMontana

    If Thomas equates "elite" with educated and broad-minded, he is correct because the dumb-minded represent the GOP.

    May 6, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  20. suzabella

    Oh WOW! Thomas speaks? I thought he was non-verbal. Don't ask questions and you don't have to face the truth. He's a disgrace to the court and his race.

    May 6, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  21. Bonnie Bowden

    Oh you mean looking man. How did you ever get that job? Sick!

    May 6, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  22. BD70

    He has been so silent I have no idea who he is. Nor do I know what he is trying to say.

    May 6, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  23. retief1954

    Guess what, Clarence? Obama would never have been elected with only the votes of your "elites". A majority of America's "rank and file" citizens chose him too. So don't sit there pontificating about how Obama is just a man of your fantasy Fox News "elite" class, okay, Mr. Justice Dude?
    Oh, and btw, you yourself would qualify as an American "elite" would you not? So just put a sock in your mouth and stop all your dumb Republican talk.

    May 6, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  24. philojazz

    "Thomas is known for staying largely silent on the bench..." Well, after reading his quoted statements in this article, I can see why.

    May 6, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  25. whitepine

    So he thinks the 47% would vote for Romney? Does this man watch the news or read a newspaper? You don't have to be rich nor educated to know Romney and the GOPs don't really care about this country.

    May 6, 2013 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
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