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. yogi

    Good Lord....still bringing up Benghazi? Impeachment? "Our country is suffering more each"? Where do you live? What do you smoke?
    Thank God for Obama who is still in the process of cleaning up after his predecessor. Stop diverting, as all republicans constantly do with any discussion, and stay on topic.
    BTW, the negative comments here about Thomas have nothing to do with the color of his skin, but everything with his complete inaptitude as a judge on the court.
    And last but not least, you are joking with your last comment right? "Liberalism, its whats wrong with our country"
    Imagine what utter chaos we would have in this country if a republican president was in office. Republicans are the biggest problem this country is facing.

    May 6, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  2. Just An Average Guy

    The Supreme Court became suspect as soon as Clarence took his seat. He doesn't say anything, because as soon as he opens his mouth, the stupid meter goes crazy!

    May 6, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. SamB19

    This guy is obnoxious.

    May 6, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. Bill

    If the 'elites' felt pressure to approve the first black president, I'm sure it was in part because the first black Supreme Court justice was such a disgrace and embarrassment.

    May 6, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Joe M2.

    "Thomas is known for staying largely silent on the bench and has rarely commented on cases during his time in the high court. "... Then what the heck is he doing there? Go sell pencils under a highway bridge. But get out and put somebody who is willing to speak their peace and strive for a better country.

    May 6, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. tomntucson

    He's right, Obama needed approval by those elite people not widely considered the worst Supreme Court Justice in the history of our Republic. He should stick to sleeping through oral arguments.

    May 6, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. zon

    Clarence Thomas can speak?

    May 6, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. AceT

    Says the man with no morals or integrity.

    May 6, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  9. jwdooley

    First time I've been counted as a member of the elite. Thanks Clarence

    May 6, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. toydrum

    The elites have to approve of ANY presidential choice. The public may be the voters, but only the candidates that kowtow to the special interests - on BOTH sides - have any hope of getting the funding and support to run a successful campaign.

    It doesn't matter what your color, race, religion, sex, background or anything else. If the elites don't like you, the general public will never even get the chance to vote for or against you.

    May 6, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. mark shiro

    the liberal elite want their black politicians to be beholden to them and all of the giveaways from the government or else they will crucify that person. they do not like minorities who think for themserlves or, god forbid, contribute to society by earning degrees and getting high paying jobs. rediculous!

    May 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Romney is Still NOT My Hero


    OMG, This is Stephen (Samuel Jackson) on Django!!!!!!!!
    You just read my mind. ROFLMAO!
    Finally! Please see my earlier posts. I thought I was the only one!!

    May 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  13. Mark

    > "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.

    Ugh. You can also do this job dressed in a chicken suit, but that doesn't mean you should. What a strange dude.

    May 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  14. Vicki

    Clarence Thomas is an elite man who is very ugly in word and deed since he has been a grown man. I really have a very bad opinion of the republicans on the Supreme Court.

    May 6, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. jj

    Clarence Thomas finally said something and it is this stupid statement?

    May 6, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  16. Larry in Houston

    this article about 'ol Clarence shows you he needs to be put out to graze – Hate to be a bearer of bad tidings there , Clarence – but have you been living under a rock or something ? Why don't you go and check the real "facts" on how and who and why Obama got elected – – – Believe me, Clarence – & you say you always knew "it would have to be a black president who was approved by the elites and the media – – – so you're saying that the "elites" are the ones who got him elected ? "approved" would be almost the same meaning as getting "elected" – because the "People" "approved" the election, with the election results. – – – Why don't you go back to sleep, Clarence ? You're probably better off

    May 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  17. Stuart

    These remarks and his past court statements show Thomas is highly partisan and not honestly evaluating court proceedings before him. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't get his voting directions from his wife who is even more partisan than he is. He asks very few questions in sessions. Therefore, his qualifications as a supreme Court Justice has raised questions. He seems to come into court with his mind all ready made up.

    May 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  18. truth is good

    Isnt being a Supreme court justice kinda on the elite end of the spectrum?

    May 6, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. Thoughtful

    This man should NEVER have been approved to sit on the bench. He doesn't ask any questions, but being as smart as he is, I supppose he knows all the answers. His voting records is almost identical to Scalia's and that's scary.

    Judges are suppose to be impartial, but I believe his wife's participation on political committees can't help but enforce his ideas that HE RIGHT and everyone else is wrong.

    Impartial, think again. Could he be impeached. I wish it would happen.

    May 6, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  20. OrmondGeorge

    What elites? I voted for him in the primaries and in the general.
    I didn't get permission from anyone.
    I don't know if the Thomas statement is just silly or actually stupid.

    May 6, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  21. Daily Llama

    Justice Clarence Thomas: The last conscience of reason on the Sureme Court bench. A great American!

    May 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  22. Mark

    So we have someone who is most definitely an "elite" telling us about "those elites". The use of the term elites has become so absurd. This country was founded by the "elites", maybe the greatest bunch of elitists ever, so what is the problem? Does anyone really believe that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton et. al. were just average working joes, who, after a couple of beers came up with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? What are these so called "common folk" like Justice Thomas smoking? Do they really believe we should be looking for leadership from the "worst and the dumbest" of our citizens as opposed to the best and the brightest?

    May 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  23. Alfa Spider

    God bless Clarence Thomas.

    May 6, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. Commentor

    Wouldn't "Supreme Court Justice" count as "Elite"? How about Ivy League Graduate? Doesn't Clarence Thomas not know who he is?

    May 6, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  25. lejaune

    So not only the lower 47% wanted Obama, but the elite too. No wonder Romney lost.

    May 6, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
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