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. Hamburger Jones

    His entire life and career have been a joke. Tell us again about the elitists, Uncle Tom. I love that story.

    May 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. ShawnDH


    I'm disgusted at how openly political the right-wing justices have become. They are not judges anymore, but ideologues who can't be trusted to make thoughtful decisions. It's a travesty.

    May 6, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Edwin

    Well, now we know why he rarely speaks - he has nothing worthwhile to say.

    May 6, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. ronjayaz

    "...and I'm not into politics," If CT is not into politics where duz he get the strength to expose the only kind of black the "elties" will accept. That's a very serious statement in my opinion. The FU ? shud have been asked: "Who, your honor, are the 'elites.'"?
    Is Justice Thomas really saying that if he did ask a SINGLE ? he wud be revealing himself as not being someone approval by the "elite" which is obviously WHITE. It a very peculiar appearance, indeed It seems to imply that the sex scandal registered during his hearing is that the "elites" didnt really approve him and yet he got chosen. Was this in fact to quiet the justice? Hmmm. For a white guy, Bush seemed very pro-black.

    May 6, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. NateFromIndiana

    Thomas might as well say that the sky is blue – yes news media have a responsibility to review a candidate's positions and hold the candidates accountable when their numbers don't add up and their facts are wrong or distorted. That isn't an especially perceptive observation.

    May 6, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. GK

    Spot on Justice Thomas!

    May 6, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. GHK

    Well said Justice Thomas. It's obvious from the comments on here that he struck a nerve.

    May 6, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. Dave

    If I was the President, I don't know if I would go out of my way to talk with Clarence Thomas either. Doesn't sound real exciting.

    May 6, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Mindless drivel from a man who believes that it's a badge of honor that he "...can do this job without asking a single question." What an ...

    May 6, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  10. Jay David

    Good old Uncle Thomas opened his mouth twice in one lifetime. Hopefully Uncle Thomas is thinking of retiring to write his memoirs.

    May 6, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Darren

    His ignorance is breathtaking. He is actually proud of not asking a single question on the bench. Amazing.

    May 6, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. thomas k daniel

    what he said is and has always been true the left wants rep to get minorities but Colin Powell types not Clarence Thomas types they most think a certain way

    May 6, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. hank

    Thomas is one wierd guy. He should retire. He is an embarrassment. When he does talk it is nonsense.

    May 6, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  14. nosferatu

    He talks too much.

    May 6, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  15. lord toronaga

    The liberals have met their match.

    May 6, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. Sharky

    Amazing, you all attacking Thomas are exemplifying EXACTLY what he said. As for the one that called him an Uncle Tom, wow, just wow. At least he got off the Plantation, unlike you.

    So Justice Thomas is proving to be correct in his comment. Obviously only black people can be Democrat/Liberal or else they are vilified and attacked to no end. Bravo all of you.

    May 6, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. Borealbob

    Perhaps a member of the supreme court should shut the kcuf up when it comes to politics. This reprobate has no business being on the court.

    May 6, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  18. bspurloc

    so the same reason applies why Thomas the Pig got his job.

    May 6, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  19. Elllis Island

    To Jim W from Statesville, NC: thank you for speaking out and showing that all North Carolinians are NOT uneducated, right wing fanatics. I agree with you completely, and am a white, 63 year old, North Carolinean (very liberal) female. I am sure there are areas in which you and I may disagree, but I respect your right to your opinions. It's just refreshing to see someone like you speak out. And by the way, thank you for your service during the Vietnam War. While not a supporter of the war at that time, I fully supported those young men and women who sacrificed so much during those difficult years. It is a time I will never forget, but I also suspect a time not forgotten by people like you. Again, and you.

    May 6, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. Voter

    I'm disgusted at how openly political the left-wing justices have become. They are not judges anymore, but ideologues who can't be trusted to make thoughtful decisions. It's a travesty.

    May 6, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  21. david

    His arrogance is simply overwhelming ................... and no question asked in 16 years ........ he will never learn anything.

    May 6, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  22. snoozie

    Sounds like just another whine from the right, basically saying that the reason their ideas aren't flying is due to the mainstream media. They may never get that their ideas aren't flying because the majority of the people don't want them. I mean, to their thinking, how could they not?

    May 6, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  23. BB

    Uncle Tom? And the right wing are the haters?

    May 6, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Ol' Yeller

    Clarence Thomas is, and always has been, a big old joke. He was appointed after playing the race card against a brave African American Woman who tried to warn us all... Now we have a pervert on the court with a lifetime appointment. It is also pretty well known now that Anita Hill was right and Thomas does have a porn addiction.... which he means he lied under oath in his Senate confirmation hearings. Typical conservative politician, likes to condemn everyone else whilst elbow deep in the cookie jar.

    May 6, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. Hamburger Jones

    This old sot should be removed from the bench for senility. Even if you replace him with a conservative, just get one with a functioning brain. I have no problem with loyal opposition, but this fool is nothing but a robot voting machine.

    May 6, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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