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. Doug

    He could have won an Oscar if he could have gotten the part played by Samuel L Jackson in Django Unchained. Somehow I suspect he was just born to play that role.

    May 6, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. matt

    When you make up you mind in advance you can go 16 years without doing your actual job.

    May 6, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  3. Ramo

    What does that even mean? Psssst, by the way Clarence, you're about as much as an "elite" as anyone could ever be.

    May 6, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. Melvin Painter

    Holy crap, this has been in the news for days. Oh yeah, CNN had to add their spin.

    May 6, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. dabchick

    Anita Hill tried to warn everyone but this pathetic guy lied about her. What a poor choice he was & is!

    May 6, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  6. Mike

    I find it ironically hypocritical all you people bashing Thomas. I guess when a liberal "speaks their mind" they are speaking for the masses (mass of kool aid drinkers maybe) but when a conservative does it then he/she is self-serving, unqualified for his job, a "Justice Oreo" as one put it, and his views don't matter.
    And as far as helping African Americans? That isn't his job as a SCOTUS. He is there to interpret the Constitution. PERIOD. Nowhere in his job description does it say he must help blacks because he is black.
    What a bunch of hypocritical fools you liberals are. But thank you for strengthening my belief in the failure of Democrats and emboldening me to continue to NEVER EVER vote for one. That is EVER.

    May 6, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. Carroll

    Mr. Thomas, I 'm not an elitist and I voted for Obama.

    May 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. JakeF

    How on earth can a United States supreme court justice never ask a question? How is that entirely possible?

    I've asked more questions in the past few seconds than he has in two decades. Forgive me, but I just don't get this guy. You're appointed to the most powerful court in the land and not once do you ask about... anything. (yes, I know.. he "doesn't like oral arguments") Weak excuse.

    To put this in perspective, legal scholars claim that supreme court justices ask an average of 133 questions per hour long session.

    May 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  9. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Humm,
    Obama went an Ivy League School so that may make him an Elite. Actually we haven't seen his grades so he may be just a pretender. So far he has ignored those that Cling to their Guns and Religion. So much for an elite education. The National Debt keeps rising and he has no clue of how to fix it, or more likely doesn't want to. The supreme Court is supposed to affirm the Constutition when challenged. Funny of how there are a bunch of 5 to 4 decisions. So much for an elite education.

    May 6, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I'm speechless. When did I become an elitist? I knew from the 2004 that Obama will be the 1st African American President. What separated then Sen. Obama from the rest of the pack? He voted AGAINST the Iraq war. That's what earned him my vote, not his race.

    May 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  11. E.goodman

    Has there ever been a worse Supreme Court judge than Thomas? A cushy job for life, with no responsilbility on his
    part to publicly explain or discuss his warped reasoning. Too bad we can't recall him with a national vote.
    Amazing how bitter he is against all who helped him get where he is. A self loather.

    May 6, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  12. readthisTom

    Thomas must still be all upset that Anita Hill spoke the truth; get over it Jabba the Hutt. And maybe if you asked some pertinent questions you would be able to provide fair rulings....instead you sit like a lump on a log.

    May 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. history bear

    Nothing and no one is more Elitist than Lawyers and Bankers. He has no room to talk.

    May 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  14. ghostriter

    Please. Obama had to be twice as good to win both elections. In the 1st election, he had to beat out McCain and Palin. Should have been a walk in the park, especially after Palin's interviews. Romney and Ryan? Heck, the 47% video should have been it for him.

    Can you imagine what would have happened if Obama couldn't name a single publication he read? Of if he didn't know that Africa isn't a country? If he basically told 50% of the country to kick rocks? He wouldn't have had a proverbial snow flakes chance. He had to run a near flawless campaign just to eek out a win. While republicans spent the better parts of 3 years tripping over their own words.

    May 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. Ancient Texan

    So true! The media (or 90% of it) was in the tank for Obama from the beginning. They share the same Progressive Socialist vision and think of Obama as the American Nelson Mandela..

    May 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. Big_D

    This is who we should be impeaching.

    May 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. Thomas

    George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas , why ? , because he can do his job without asking a single question.

    How did this guy get through law school ? And who is the elite , it wouldn't be The Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch by any chance ?

    Justices Scalia and Thomas, There appearance at a seminar held in Palm Springs by the Koch brothers in 2011 say's more about influence then justice .

    May 6, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. ThinkAgain

    Riiiiight, and if you're a Repub and don't follow the party line in lockstep, you're called a RINO, un-American, anti-God, unpatriotic, not "real", etc., etc., etc.

    Oh, and you get "primaried" by Karl Rove or Grover Norquist.

    Thomas is delusional ...

    May 6, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. john

    Shame on the media and the elites for what they have done to the country. The media should be sitting at home for doing the bidding of anyone but the people. They must be charged as co conspirators.If the truth cannot be reported why are journalists in the business.CNN and major news media has descended to a very low level.

    May 6, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. ART

    I have always been very happy that this man has kept his mouth shut, now unfortunately we know the reason why stupid is as stupid says

    May 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. Randy, San Francisco

    Justice Thomas just confirmed the obvious. HIs decisions are not based on the US Constitution, evidence, and law but tainted by his radical conservative political agenda.

    May 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Samuel L. Jackson played Clarence Thomas to the "T" as Stephen, the house slave, in Quentin Taratino's "DJango-Unchained".
    Talk about life imitating art and vice versa.

    May 6, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. ThinkAgain

    @Fact Checker: "A jurist on the top court in the country formulates opinions without asking questions? He must possess supernatural analytical ability...or maybe just makes up his mind before the proceedings start."

    Thomas does make up his mind beforehand and then spends tons of time looking for historical context to prove his position.

    In other words, he actively tries to set society back to the 1800s or so ...

    And his claim that he's not into politics? What do you call being married to a woman who for years has actively lobbied against Obamacare and for conservative causes?

    Oh, I that's right: Thomas is such a sharp tack that he forgot to claim her income on their joint tax return for said activities ... I guess he figures aiding and abetting political activities don't count...

    May 6, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. BrianMemphis

    Liberals never cease to amaze. Successful black man gets put down by whiny liberals. Amazing. You know liberals are the most exclusive, unless you disagree with them. Then they are the most intolerant folks you can meet.

    May 6, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. Dori

    Thurgood Marshall, one of the truly great legal minds to ever sit on the SCOTUS, must be rolling in his grave to think that Clarence Thomas was nominated to succeed him. Sad.

    May 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
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