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. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Okay, NOBODY else sees the resemblance between Clarence and Stephen the house slave (played by Smauel L Jackson) in "DJango Unchained"? Nobody, huh?
    Okay then. It's just me........bwahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

    May 6, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. Peter

    Clarence Thomas' background and previous behavior is hardly that of a statesman.

    May 6, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. Clarence

    what a bunch of hooey! Obama could not have said and been the worst person to be the first black president. His middle name is Hussein, he was trying to beat the establishment candidate in Hillary, he was a "first time" senator, he had a socialist advisor in his church preacher and bunch of other stuff! So Obama was elected because he was able to appeal to the majority of American. Somehow I think Clarence Thomas thinks elections in US are rigged?! come on, he is just so jealous!

    May 6, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. an American

    A solid majority of the American people wanted Obama to be President. That fact is so unacceptable for right wing extremists to acknowledge.

    May 6, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. Peoples State of Illinois

    The comments from liberals on here prove his point nicely.

    May 6, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. John

    He's not telling the truth.. He is into politics of the far right variety and so is his wife. Those extreme views would be picked apart as they are not widely accepted by the majority of the nation. Another shining example of the need for term limits on all politcal offices.

    May 6, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. Nick

    If you disagree with Clarence Thomas it's because you're a racist..... (Watch the liberals get their panties in a bunch)

    If you disagree with President Obama it's because you're a racist..... (Since Liberals say this to conservatives, it's OK)

    May 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. Mark Gold

    The elites voted for Obama. All 65.9 million of them.

    May 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. wm Scot

    I can see that some of these "spot on" comments are from folks that think the same way that this disgrace to our legal community and country feels.
    Fortunately the majority of us "elites" feel the same way !
    Please what exactly are the "elites" that he is talking about. The educated ? The well informed ? The people that do not just listen to Rush, Hannity , Coulter or Fox news ? Just asking !!!

    May 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. rl

    I am amazed, Uncle Thomas thinks I am an elite.

    May 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Charles Mason

    And the republicans wanted an Uncle Tom on the Supreme Court.

    May 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  12. musician

    Gosh. I thought conservatives 'blamed" Obama's victories on the dependent, the poor and the unemployed that only vote for those that will give them "free stuff". Now we hear it's the "elites". I guess he didn't get the Tea Party memo. Perhaps he needs to start asking some questions. Most people that want to learn the facts and explore all the options ask a lot of questions. I imagine Thomas has all his answers before the questions are ever asked. If he asked around about Obama he'd find out that a majority of people like him and support his policies and (surprise surprise) that's why they voted for him.

    May 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. Chris

    Elite means "best of the best". Definitely doesn't describe Clarence Thomas.

    Is he actually saying that I shouldn't criticize him because he's black?

    May 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. crimson

    LOL.. i love it.. A black man says something liberals dont like and HE is worthless.. Its the truth what he says, plain and simple. Obama has proven to be inept and incapable of handling this job. Our country is suffering more each day and the liberals wont admit it because of their pride. If Benghazi happened under a republican they would be calling for Impeachment. Liberalism, its whats wrong with our country.

    May 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. DrNo

    Well said Clarabell, uh Clarence. You are a clown.

    May 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. DUH

    Clarence Thomas should probably just focus on his job rather than make politic comments.

    May 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. JustAO

    Uncle ruckus speaks again!

    May 6, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  18. Webba

    The man is 100% correct. If the media really did it's job this man wouldn't have ben elected the first time around. But they were right in love with him and gave many things a pass. Chris Mathews is a prime example.

    May 6, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  19. judith

    Clarence Thomas, a beneficiary of the liberal "elite" institutions he so deplores and whose wife is a cozy intimate of the uber-privileged and beneficiaries of inherited wealth, the Koch brothers, now blames the "elites" for electing Obama. Something is very, very wrong with his reasoning and demonstrates to me why he should not be in the highest court in the land. Perhaps Ginny Thomas should get off the payroll of the very monied, elite lobbying groups? See any hypocrisy in Thomas crocodile tears?

    May 6, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  20. rs1201

    The country has been evenly divided on whether Obama should be President with a few extra percentage points on the side of Obama. That certainly is not a "solid majority".
    We need a third party candidate who doesn't owe anything to anyone and just wants to do what's best for America. Sort of like Mayor Bloomberg. He's a billionaire who takes a single dollar a year as a salary...doesn't owe anyone anything and just wants to do what's best for NYC. We need someone like that in the White House!

    May 6, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  21. Bob S.

    Ah, good old chair-warmer Clarence Thomas....never offers an opinion without checking with Scalia first, never asks any questions, never does much of anything but vote straight-line conservative on EVERY issue, listen to his extreme right-wing wife's rhetoric, and just waits to collect his sizeable pension. Any bets he won't retire at the first available opportunity? A true smear on the Supreme Court's shorts.

    May 6, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. GilH

    I find it interesting that Clarence Thomas doesn't appear to consider himself a member of the country's "elites." Also, I'm not aware of any president who hasn't been accepted by the country's elites. If a president falls out of favor, the usually get voted out of office. Sometimes, like George Bush, they manage to hang on and get re-elected. It's called democracy, and it's messy.

    May 6, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Mike

    It's always hilarious how those who champion the cause of the wealthiest 1% at the expense of the rest of the nation are so quick to call everyone else elitists! Who does this knucklehead think he's fooling!?

    May 6, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Beth

    Conservative elites wanted Thomas because he matched their opinions, not because he had great qualifications. Of course He will argue there are no elites among conservatives.

    May 6, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. Matt E

    Obama, like many of the past presidents, are nothing more than puppets for the corporate elite. Wake up.

    May 6, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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