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. Buck

    The elites wanted Obama. Thanks Captain Obvious.

    May 6, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  2. mccainin4

    My question to his Honor would be: "If you had an important question to ask, would you trust the lawyers presenting evidence, or would you ask your question to your associates & staff?"

    May 6, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Texas

    I knew would color this differently. Listen to the whole interview @CSPAN he was very insightful and objective.
    If you did not watch it...please reserve your comments.

    May 6, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. dnokc

    Ask Herman Cain!

    May 6, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  5. PushingBack

    What a joke that he thinks being on the SC for 16 years and not asking a single question is an admirable quality!

    May 6, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  6. It's Me

    He is exactly right. Dr. Benjamin Carson is a good example of a person of color that does not fit the mold and is taking heat for speaking the truth about enslaving generations of blacks via welfare and government handouts. It is hard to break the cycle when the government doesn't do something to help break it.

    May 6, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. Jimmy

    Thanks Mr. President for being us together, like you promised.
    BTW: There wouldn't be a TEA party without your leftwing agenda and the folks postring here!

    May 6, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  8. Dano

    Clarence Thomas not into politics?? Now that's funny.

    May 6, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  9. Alverant

    Adam Davis ever notice how often conservatives play the victim? Sure Thomas has the right to his opinion. But here's what cons don't get, SO DO THE REST OF US. Thomas does NOT have the right not to be offended nor does he have the right not to be criticized.

    May 6, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. Stephen

    He doesn't ask questions because I'd wager that his mind is already entirely made up before the thing starts.

    May 6, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. AEP

    Please retire, PLEASE....

    May 6, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  12. Tom

    Did Clarence Thomas mention the fact that Barack Obama may have been elected because (1) he has leadership qualities, and (2) the people he ran against didn't.

    May 6, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  13. DFWallace

    Justice Thomas, the pathetic yes-man for Justice Scalia. The Libertarian butt-boys for our corporate thugs/thieves that crashed the economy... the legacy of deregulation and too much freedom. Over the last 25-30 years, the corporate fox has been allowed to watch the Federal Government hen house.

    We must have MAJOR campaign finance reform, greatly reduced lobbying, and an end to the 'revolving-door'.

    May 6, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. RAWoD

    So he has sat on the court and accomplished what? "Breathing" doesn't count much.

    May 6, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  15. Dave Fisher

    I always get a kick out of peoples comments. What I read and read into the comments is that most folks judge a person only by what the media says of them or what perhaps their affiliation is. I see it in the comments here as well, it really tells me how intellegent the person that is making the comment really is.

    May 6, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  16. scooter

    I lose a lot of respect for somebody trying to make an argument when they use they refer to the "elites". Not that I had much respect for Thomas to begin with.

    May 6, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. duke

    Most Justices go into the Supreme Court with some leaning or inclination. They've already been reading numerous briefs presented by both sides as well as amicus briefs from groups supporting each side. The actual arguments in the Supreme court are minimal. One side may only have 25 minutes to speak. So, yeah he probably does have an indication before the trial. They all do.

    May 6, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  18. EdwardTr

    Clarence Thomas speaks the truth when he says he is not into politics. His wife manages that aspect of his revenue stream.

    May 6, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  19. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    It's fair enough to say that Obama had a lot of elite support, but so did Romney. That's usually true of any major party candidate. Justice Thomas was appointed to the Court by Bush Sr., who certainly represented the political and financial elite (his own dad, Prescott Bush, had been a Senator and Wall Street banker).

    May 6, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  20. John King

    "He sits quietly on the bench, not saying much!" It's because he has nothing to say. He will go down in history as the weakest Supreme Court Justice ever to be put on the court..........

    May 6, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  21. Rickapolis

    I thought it is the poor that wanted Obama. THAT'S obvious.

    May 6, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  22. WachetAuf

    The polite term which describe the dilemma of all governing models is "cognitive dissonance". It arises out of the human condition. We are ignorant and narcissistic. These traits were programmed into our brains and minds in the Garden of Eden. There we learned two things about our nature: that we are ignorant and that we can hide our ignorance. The latter is the result of our narcissism. Eve was first infected. Eve passed it along to Adam who said nothing.

    Now, hundreds of thousands of years later, maybe millions since the Garden of Eden we still are faced with the same two human traits, ignorance and narcissism. We therefore deny what is obvious: there is an "elite" group of people who do have the skills and talents to reason through and find solutions for the toughest problems which face humanity. The rest of us depend on them because we do not have those skills and talents, among them to rise above the fanciful, delusional imaginings of the lizard brains which motivate us. We, instead, rely solely upon the instructions of small groups of men who tell us what we must believe and what we must ignore. And we buy it, hook, line and sinker. My own ignorance is so immense that it confounds me as I try to sort through the mass of "facts" which are thrust on me every hour of every day. Who am I to know the truth? We were given some very good instructions on how we might deal with this dilemma. Jesus invited us to be tolerant, to turn the other cheek, not to cast the first stone. His invitation was the beginning of knowledge. Yet, our leaders want to motivate us, the herd, to move in the direction they choose. Yes, there is an "elite" which directs us all. But, given our immense ignorance, which "elite" can we trust to better direct us toward the "truth"? How about an "elite" which, for starters, invites us to be tolerant, to turn the other cheek, etc.?

    May 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  23. Hillcrester

    Clarabelle is an affront to the concept of justice. Just pathetic.

    May 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  24. Hugo2

    I remember in the 1980's several black conservatives such as Glenn Loury, Stanley Crouch and Robert Woodson too positions that they believed were contrary positions from what was believed to be traditional black thought. However, Glenn Loury revealed that most of what was expressed was not necessarily what they believed but it was a way to get a debate started. White conservatives took those positions as proof that there was this large group of black intellectuals that honestly believe their nonsense. It seems Clarence Thomas didn't get the memo that what they were saying was b.s. It will take a lot before African Americans trust white conservatives when you take into account the history of violence and discrimination that African American were subjected at the hands of white conservatives.
    Clarence is doing the job white conservatives want him to do. Give legitimacy to policies that only benefit them.

    May 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. GratefulA

    In response to the following, Oh he does not have to ask any questions, as he is Antonin Scalia's puppet!
    My question to his Honor would be: "If you had an important question to ask, would you trust the lawyers presenting evidence, or would you ask your question to your associates & staff?"

    May 6, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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