May 6th, 2013
10:23 AM ET
2 years 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. W8a2nd

    Clarence.... go back to sleep.

    May 6, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. HZ

    The Justice failed to mention Alan Keyes. Alan Keyes is a former U.S. ambassador who served under President Ronald Reagan. Keyes is black and a gifted debater. He ran as a Republican in the 1990s. He won every debate he was in but he had ZERO chance of being nominated because he wasn't accepted by white Republicans... even tho he was 100% conservative. The system played dirty tricks to keep him out too. One time he passed all of the requirements to be in a televised debate (gathering enough votes) but the TV station simply did not invite him. When he showed up anyways the Secret Service directed Atalanta police to arrest him. Just a few history notes for any of you who want to know the real deal.

    May 6, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  3. Dicazi

    He doesn't ask questions because his mind is already made up. Like so many Republicans. And I would NEVER vote for a candidate simply because of his color. I would NEVER vote for Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson because I disagree with many of their posistions. And not that should should make a difference, but I'm white.

    May 6, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  4. Peter

    So he's basically saying that Republicans would never nominate or elect a black to the White House.

    May 6, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  5. Bamster

    Thomas was right right on when he made that statement. Elite left wanted Obama now they are ashamed of Obama.

    May 6, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  6. Whosure

    Well, there sure are a lot of "elites" in this country! At least our president does say something, does have an opinion! Anita Hill was one brave woman!

    May 6, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. ellamvaram

    Some have yet to learn. Being a Supreme Court does not endorse anyone as being learned. There's finis in absolute learnedness, and Black Justice in question is only exhibiting his inability to rise up to a high plain. Accept the facts of things as they are, and not try to invent something that is not true. He knows it, and we know it, and so why argue. Good Luck Justice!

    May 6, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  8. ATLJack

    Clarence Thomas "does his job" without asking questions. His mind is already made up. He's going to vote the VERY conservative "cause" no matter what the cases are.

    Its fair to say Thomas is by FAR the most political figure to ever sit on the court.

    It is absurd to think the Supreme Court could function honestly without the jurists asking questions.

    May 6, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. Slinky

    Oh, here we go again. Those mythical "elites" are always to blame. This nonsense coming from a Supreme Court justice is discouraging.

    May 6, 2013 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  10. Gillespie

    People always blame the media when they can't think of anything else. Obama was elected by regular people. Working people Union members making 40k a year with a family If these people are the elite who are the people Republicans represent? Obama wants to raise taxs on 2% of tax payers. He wants to help people pay for school and health care. Mr. Thomas thinks these people are elite? He is a weird guy.

    May 6, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  11. truebob

    "You voted for Obama because the elite media didn't tear him apart like they did Bush" Sorry tom, I didn't need or listen to media opinion to know I respected Obama as a thinker and a speaker, or that I though Bush was a tool and an insipid panderer. I just listened to their speeches, and I formed my opinion based on what was said, and what was and wasn't done afterwards.

    May 6, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  12. Brad Olsen

    A Supreme Court justice who doesn't ask questions? What a lightweight. I don't think he is confident to think of relevant questions. How about, What was that on that can of Coke?

    May 6, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  13. letgotherope

    What a shame that a Supreme Court Justice would have to reduce something as important as the election of our first black President to the most simplistic and ignorant of assumptions. One should expect a lot more from people appointed to positions of such prestige, power and influence. He seems to have used it as an opportunity not just to be lazy physically – but also to model the epitome of intellectual laziness.

    May 6, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  14. kenhbradshaw

    I think this is too simple an explaination. I think unions, minorities, youth and women pushed the election to Obama. Did they make a good choice? Probably not. Obama seems more flash then substance. But at the same time the Republican stances were too narrow. I like conservative economics. But an immigration policy that was too rigid went a long way to defeat them. Was Romney a great evil and a flip flopper? No. I am more conviced that he was a bad campaigner. But the media was mostly one sided. They howled about notebooks of women and ignored Bengazhi.

    May 6, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  15. Shorn

    "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.""

    Said the stupidest justice to ever wear the robe. This court is a disgrace.

    May 6, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  16. peter

    This least distinguished man has no business on the court, and never did. He is an embarrassment to the court, and a misogynist pig.

    May 6, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  17. squoose

    Newsflash: ANYONE no matter what their race has to have the approval of the elites to be president.

    May 6, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  18. DarrellSF

    After saying nothing during Supreme Court case oral arguments, he pops off now?

    Maybe he should continue to keep his mouth shut???

    Obama was selected as President TWICE because the Republican alternatives were horrific! And Obama more represents the make-up of the United States so much better than McCain/Pallin and Romney/Paul. And Hillary Clinton was just a little too hawkish at the time for most of us weary of long wars!

    Justice Thomas should spend more time trying to figure out how he supposedly does his job so well without asking a single question. I'd assume it's because he has set values all to his own, and votes according to those, rather than precedent and jurisprudence.

    May 6, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  19. Jay

    We could save the country some money by getting rid of Thomas and just giving Scalia two votes.

    May 6, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  20. ratickle

    Starting to take a liking to Clarence Thomas.

    May 6, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  21. Mark

    Thomas is an ignoramus. He's a disgrace to the Supreme Court.

    May 6, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  22. Camacho

    This guy is a waste on this bench of otherwise extraordinary people of SCOTUS.

    May 6, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  23. randyb

    Of course the elite wanted him...no one gets to that position without the elite support in any party. It is a ridiculously obvious statement made by the poorest justice the Supreme Court Justice of all time. He offers no wisdom or legal insight and is an embarrassment to the conservatives of this country.

    May 6, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  24. Hopey Changey

    Obama is, and always has been, someone else's tool.

    May 6, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  25. winchester74

    Clarence Thomas's wife is a lobbyist for global corporations. She gets paid huge sums of money to influence people in Washington. In the old days they called this bribery – and it was illegal. And Clarence – a pitiful quisling for American fascism has the gall to criticize the President.

    May 6, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
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