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. DustyOnes

    I think Thomas politely called Obama "Token"

    May 6, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Still bitter after all these years, eh, Thomas? Get over it. Do us a favor and retire already.

    May 6, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  3. knklhead

    Clarence Thomas ... so if you never have to ask a question, that means you know all the answers, right? I also get the feeling you don't work very hard and likely feel pretty entitled as a SCOTUS. The people NEVER would have elected you.

    May 6, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. CraigRB

    Clarence Thomas is not a very curious, intelligent man so, it's a good thing that his job doesn't require him to ask questions.

    May 6, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  5. ally buster

    This guy is so full of himself-

    May 6, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. johnsonj3

    who cares wht he thinks.

    May 6, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  7. Scott

    Gosh, then a majority of this country must be "elites". Conversely, It is apparent that right wing extremists want Clarence. Remember, there are two sides to every coin.

    May 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  8. madbeachden

    I never like this guy.Now I think you have to question his sanity

    May 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Bob

    He's right.... but isn't that the case with any President in this age? We package candidates up like iPads.

    May 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. al

    Why does Justice Thomas seem to be so bitter? Is he really unhappy with his life or something? He just comes across that way to me. I respect what he has accomplished yet on a personal level he seems to believe he paid too high a price to achieve it.

    May 6, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. Sametestsameresults

    This Justice is quiet and asks no questions for a reason. He is the dumbest Justice ever!! @ Push over! Obama won in 2008 by more than the so called non existant voters get over yourself and learn the facts. Yes Justice Thomas was put in to place by the Elites!! He was helped in to Yale by rich connected friends. He is a thug a womanizer and has lied during the investigation concerning his hedonistic behaviors. How such a low life could ever get this job is because the Democrats wouldnt fight the nomination enough because the GOP were pouncing on the Race card when they did. The kettle calling the pot black.....I cannot wait for this man to retire or in any other way leave this post.

    May 6, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. JoJo

    Thomas says Obama was "approved by the elites", and this coming from one of the justices who in 2000 let G.W. Bush become President though Gore had more popular votes and possibly more electoral votes, leading to the horrendous domestic, economic, international and environmental situation we're now in.

    May 6, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  13. Mark

    With all these comments I think he proved his point. You can not even have an opinion anymore without liberal meat heads attacking you because it is not there thought!

    May 6, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. Michigan Voter

    Thomas doesn't need to ask questions, Scalia tells him everything he needs to know.

    May 6, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  15. Cooramoor

    Wow. He hit the nail right on the head. Well said Clarence.

    May 6, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. dsangiovanni

    Oh yeah? And who picked you ? Oh, you don't speak, do you?.. This is the kind of mouth who gives wood to fire those who hate the USA...That is the kind of agenda of the international extremists around the world.

    May 6, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. sly

    Ho ho ho -- I thought the '47%' were poor folks 'looking for a handout'.

    Now we find out the Republicans have identified them as 'elites'.

    Wow – the Republicans are STILL flip-flopping on all issues, and the election is long over.

    May 6, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. w l jones

    I have a problem with his line of thinking peroid!

    May 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. RINO Bill

    ... and a black nominee for Supreme Court Justice being confirmed by U.S. Senators is not getting approved by "elites?"

    May 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. pm Ohio

    For a supposedly very smart guy, he sure doesn't sound like it...I thought the GOP line was that the Dems want everyone to be on welfare, so they'll vote Democrat...but Clarence thinks that the "elites" wanted him? That would probably be due to the fact that the more educated you become, you tend to be less conservative, because education debunks many of the Right's talking points...which is all they have to begin with, in lieu of actual facts. Many of Clarence's colleagues are liberal thinkers but vote against that and don't say it publicly because it would hurt thier bank accounts to vote otherwise.

    May 6, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. yogi

    @ America loves Obamas lies
    Three and a half years can't pass soon enough!
    ====================================
    I don't agree with your name, but I totally agree with your statement, so we will finally get some positive work done with a Democratic majority in the House, the Senate, and of course a Democrat as president.

    May 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. FG

    No one wanted Clarence Thomas nor do they now.

    May 6, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  23. Bertha59

    Clarence Thomas has always come across as a soured dispirited man. At times he appears to not like being an African American.

    May 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Nina B.K

    Clarence Thomas is a disgrace to the supreme court– he must retire & ride off into oblivion with his wife in their motor home. Yesterday too soon !

    May 6, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. bigstrike

    Thomas is keenly aware there are more voters than taxpayers. It all end when the voters run out of other peoples money.

    May 6, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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