May 6th, 2013
10:23 AM ET
9 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."

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"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. Burqueno

    A lot of jobs can be done, albeit poorly, with minimal effort. Case in point, the vacuous Clarence Thomas, who "gets by" in one of the most important positions in America. The bar doesn't go any lower.

    May 6, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. Nana Egyir

    Clarence Thomas is an angry black man who resents himself therefore must resign his position as Supreme Court judge and be forever remain silent.

    May 6, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Thomas....LOL

    We're going to believe Thomas? Anyone remember the turmoil and scandal of his nomination to the SC? LMAO

    May 6, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Willie

    Uncle Thomas have zero credibility in major of the black community. We have little to no respect for him as a person or a justice. You would think that as an African American we would be proud of his accomplishments, but instead he brings a sense of shame and dishonor. Not because of his ambiguous attitude towards the black community but his insensitivity to the plight of young African Americans. And how he has forgotten where we came from.

    May 6, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. felixgiordano

    Imagine, some court rulings that will last a lifetime or more with the support of one justice who has absolutely no curiosity. Talk about punching the clock and doing no work. He would have been fired long ago if he instead had worked in private business.

    May 6, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. Vic of New York

    And to think about it... This guy is the Conservative Party "elites" version of Uncle Tom. Different "elites", different perspectives of what a Black candidate should look like. Only, in the case of Conservatives – "BAFOON" really comes to mind.

    May 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Jules

    Who are the elites? The media – huh! Mostly muckrakers who run a story to death before they move onto the next one. The wealthy? The wealthy didn't elect Barack Obama – not the first time and not the second time. The true elites were in the other guy's corner as we all know.

    May 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. bill davis

    Bush chose you as a Supreme Court Justice because they are not Elite at all. Right Steppin Fetchit?

    May 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  9. rosie

    Coming from you Thom (Uncle Tom GOP lap dog) this means NOTHING.

    May 6, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Jamey

    He kind of reminds me of Wilson. No, not that one. The soccer ball that was stranded with Tom Hanks on the island. Definitely a bitter, jealous, old man. How sad.

    May 6, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. Just a guy

    I'm no fan of Thomas, but in a way, I get where he's coming from. It's not really that much different than some things Chris Rock said about the White dentist who lives next door to him. ("Do you know what a Black dentist would have to do to live in my neighborhood? He'd have to invent teeth!") We've come a long way wrt race relations and prejudice in this country, but for a Black person to be the first anything, he still has to be pretty squeaky clean to get through.

    May 6, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. Timbuck2

    @Name, sounds like jealously to me too! He should take his self-loathing self back to where he came from, I cannot see any good he has done for anyone. Just holding up a seat that someone else have where they may actually inject input to at least try to do the job.

    May 6, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  13. JB

    You can do your job without asking a single question? Seriously? That's like saying you can work at McDonald's for 16 years without touching a single French fry. You're an embarrassment to the court, sir.

    May 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. ERKO

    Yikes, this man can't even speak English or construct sentences very well. Sad.

    May 6, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. Thinkergal

    Thomas would be better served to continue to keep silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt–to paraphrase Mark Twain.

    May 6, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    Aaaaaand, his wife no doubt just got a big fat check for him saying this.

    May 6, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. alien1

    if any democrats in office ever have anything in front of the supreme court, thomas must stand down for his ignorent and biased views

    May 6, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. AEJ

    Remember he is marris to the "white Tea Party woman". He is a disgarce to women in general. Remember is white wife Jenny???? Tea Pary darling who was paid and Thomas did not declare her income in his income tax returns. Remember what he did with Anita Hill?? Who could forget that?

    May 6, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. roger

    You may not like what he said but he speaks the truth. Obama acts white, is a liberal, says everything the far left wanted him to, and he's black. You can see how quick they turned on him, liberals that is, when he didn't follow through on his promises to the left. The don't like Col. West because he has a mind of his own and speaks it and it isn't what they want to hear. You need to bend to the beliefs of the left or no matter who you are you're dead meat.

    May 6, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  20. ghostriter

    Balanced99, how do you explain the popularity of Collin Powell? He's conservative and had a decent shot at getting a good deal of the liberal vote. All before he supported Obama.

    No media scrutiny? You gotta be kidding me. Unless you mean that most news outlets won't put too much time on unfounded conspiracy theories. Maybe if you guys had something a bit more concrete than a cable with Clinton's name on it.

    May 6, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    The "elites" and the "media"? Is he suggesting the Koch Brothers and the Wall Street Journal backed Obama? Or are the Kock Brothers not an "elite" and the Wall Street Journal not "media". Dumb as a box of rocks.

    May 6, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. Dennis

    What an idiot on our supreme court also. I'll never understand how he got there.

    May 6, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. Thinkergal

    This is an appointment for which history will never forgive the senior Bush president.

    May 6, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  24. Jackie Treehorn

    "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.

    I guess it depends on your definition of doing the job.

    May 6, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  25. Analystgirl

    He can talk????? I thought he was mute!
    I think I understand why he doesn't speak often.....he is an imbecile.

    May 6, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
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