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. MV

    "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question,"

    We should be able to fire him for incompetence due to that statement alone.

    May 6, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. TLORop

    Apparently judges don't watch the news. These elites have led the most brutal personal attacks against Obama from the beginning.

    May 6, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. Ken

    Mr. Thomas doesn't say much but when he does he always sounds angry, self-righteous and certainly not very intellectual. How this man ended up on the Supreme Court bench is utterly amazing.

    May 6, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  4. Rick V

    Lots of whining by lots of Libs but that would be what you expect when the the far left leaning media distorts the truth as much as they do. Any time an intelligent man who doesnt fit the model set forth by the white liberals in charge is vilified as soon as he says anything they dont like he is immediately pegged as a demon or "Uncle Tom". As a member of the Supreme Court it is his job to listen to both sides of an argument and then determine what is constitutionally correct or not, regardless of his or her political affiliation. I dont know where that requires a lot of questions to be asked. For anyone to become president of the US, liberal, conservative, black, white, hispanic, etc... the media and/or elites in the respective parties have to approve before their names will even make it into the public eye. I think he was actually just stating the obvious. The problem with our system right now is most of the media is in the tank for the left and ignore much of the down side of the liberal mindset along with spreading untruths about conservatives. One example would be response to Katrina. Many of the liberals who were in the middle of that are now coming out to say that Bush did everything right when it came to that disaster. They are also saying he has done more to save children in Africa from the AIDS epedemic than any other person in the world. These stories are reported but buried in the back pages of their news papers or websites and they dont make them widely publicized because they dont help their cause.

    May 6, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  5. Ralphiec88

    Since when is 'elite' a bad thing in America? Astronauts are elite, so are Army Rangers, Thomas Edison, and even the first black Supreme court Justice. Mediocrity is not something to strive for.

    May 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. Jen L

    The media overall is slightly right of center. Even being in the center is deemed liberal by extremists on the right. The media doesn't pick ANYONE apart because that would be offensive to the supporters of the people picked apart and that would hurt their ratings; in that way, they are failing at the job of reporting. The media does tend to support candidates that are popular, since that increases their ratings. They support moderates from the Democratic party and extremists from the Republican party.

    The media are businesses. This is the way that the free market works.

    It astounds me how often conservatives claim to be victimized by the free market that they protect so vehemently, while hiding that what they are talking about is the free market in action. In THIS case, however, the combination of the extreme persecution complex that Thomas just displayed combined with his espoused narcissism just goes to show how much hatred he has for black people who don't agree with HIM.

    Thomas only cares about your skin color if you already disagree with him; then your skin color is a problem.

    May 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. zaphed

    equal opportunity quotas. That is how he got there.

    May 6, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. DesertDwlr

    Anyone want a can of coke?

    May 6, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. cosmok

    @hubert39 "And the world wanted Obama as president". Huh? We now have to elect presidents that the rest of the world ok's?

    May 6, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Jimmy

    By the comments here, I would assume that Thomas is correct in his assessment.

    May 6, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. irish7

    Sly, "unemployment is going around 4%"....really??? Just going to assume it's going there? Using that same logic unemployment is going around 0%. Hoary for us!!! It's nice that you can see all the rosy stuff, but have blinders on when it comes to how far in debt we are going with this fabulous president.

    May 6, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. Robyn

    Better to stay silent and let people think you are an idiot,
    than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    May 6, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. gregor1971

    Obama was a popular choice because he had absolutely no record. He was just an idea, a candidate onto whom voters could project anything they wanted in a president. As we have seen, he has no real leadership abilities, only complaining when he doesn't get his way but never spending much time trying to build his case. As even democratic lawakers have mentioned, Obama is aloof and rarely connected.

    May 6, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. muri

    Obama hates capitalism yet the very lithmus test of said operational health is enjoying record marks. The straw is well out of reach and not coming back down for a while on this one. Time to reach for a new group of them maybe?

    May 6, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. nvmature

    He is to self-righteous to know how elitist and self-righteious he is. Probably doesn't ask questions of himself either.

    May 6, 2013 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  16. George

    "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."
    You mean like Fox News?
    First it's the 47% losers wanted him, now it's the 'elites'. Conservatives should just worry about their own message and how they promoting policies that benefit the wealthy and appeal to the rural white southern men. How's that for strange bedfellows?! They need to face reality and start worrying about serving THE PEOPLE, not just the Koch brothers and Ted Nugent.

    May 6, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  17. Mike

    The scare crow speaks!
    -another epic nove from Harriet Beecher Stowe

    May 6, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  18. PatBananaRama

    What was really amazing about Thomas's statement was how you couldn't see Scalia's mouth move at all!

    May 6, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Vince

    He should focus on deciding his cases. His views on other topics are neither relevant or invited.

    May 6, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. Luis Agrelot

    Seems to me that he is very upset!!

    May 6, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  21. callnews

    The elite have spoken. Da, da-da, da.

    May 6, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. Kansas Slim

    Clarence Thomas will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court justices we've ever had. If every justice behaved as he has, we would have no idea what goes on in the Supreme Court, and their opinions would be devoid of the give and take between lawyer and judge that makes such questioning important. In addition, of course, Thomas' opinions are knee-jerk right wing without any original thought going into them. The guy himself is such a tool of the right. If Obama is the pick of the elites (which doesn't explain all the minorities and other disenfranchised groups that voted for him), then Clarence Thomas is the plantation slave who does whatever the boss tells him to do.

    May 6, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  23. USAPeasant

    Clarence Thomas has always told it like it is. One of the few high officials that actually has a brain. Please stay alive and on the bench for another decade Thomas, America is going to need you!

    May 6, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  24. 782nc

    It is obvious that Prseident Obama is a better President than Thomas is a Supreme Court Justice. Besides, who cares what he says when he says it.

    May 6, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  25. gregor1971

    Obama was only ever an idea. he had no record to qualify him to become commander-in-chief. He purposely voted "Present" as senator on all of the controversial issues. The media made him out to be this Messiah, but as is often the case, he had no idea what to do when he became President, lashing out in the media less than 90 days into his presidency when things weren't going his way in Congress. Heck, he had a democratically-controlled Congress to work with, and he was still complaining when his own party wouldn't unanimously buy off on his agenda. He just never spent any time building up his agenda. He just didn't have enough real-world experience to know how to build relationships and consensus. He expected to speak words and have things just happen. That only happens in elections, not as a leader.

    May 6, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
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