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. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    We all know that Clarence Thomas is part of the Motisa tribe. As in "Mo Tea Sir."

    May 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. twophad

    I remember when the Supreme Court had too much dignity to enter into petty political stuff. But then, it was pretty clear from the get-go that Thomas was a token who did not really have what it takes to be a Supreme Court Justice. Too bad when the Pubs decided to nominate a black guy, they didn't choose one of the highly qualified ones–but then that was probably deliberate..

    May 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. sistahgrl7

    Thomas' belief he actually earned and deserves his seat on the Supreme Court is deeply disturbing. As a Justice, his lack of intellectual depth and introspection does a disservice to the country.

    May 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  4. Sasha

    Apparently, a majority of the US population are "elites".

    May 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. ellid

    What a bitter, bitter man.

    May 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. No support

    Did he really say he "doesn't do politics?" From the very beginning he was shown to be a liar and he continues. I suppose if the pervert would stop staring out at all the women and listen to the cases before him he might think of some relevant questions.

    May 6, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. Colonel Darkstone

    As a very wise man has said, "It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Be quiet Clarence!!

    May 6, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. Darwin

    Based on his foolish comments here, it's not surprising he stays silent. Maybe next he'll tell us that Supreme Court justices can't be confirmed without the approval of the media? Where does this hatred of the media come from? Maybe journalists have caught too many prominent "FAMILY VALUE" Conservatives in bed with people they shouldn't have been?

    May 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. Billy C

    "A black man can't get elected president without the approval of the elites and the media."

    Sorry to burst your bubble Clarence, but that ain't just a black thing.

    May 6, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Pushover

    I can't believe the shallowness of many of those posting here. Just as with any jury, who are not allowed to ask questions, he asks few. He let's the lawyers prove their case. If you actually follow the SCOTUS, alot of the questions asked are actually meant to lead the attorneys in the direction the jurist wants to convince other middle jurists. Most of them make up their minds from reading the briefs before the case is presented.

    Secondly, he is spot on with the media elites. How many times have we seen them gand up on any minority that the runs on the conservative side by digging up dirt.

    May 6, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  11. ldean50

    Welp, looks like another brick of the foundation of the United States of American just fell out... Supreme Court Justices are NOT to speak, or involve themselves politically unless they are no longer on the bench... even then, all past Justices still refuse to comment on politics and each other. Hold onto your hats. Here we go down the tubes.

    May 6, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. tas20036

    This guy is on SCOTUS because Bush wanted to replace Marshall with a black conservative, no matter how stupid he was.

    May 6, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. VEW2012

    "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all
    doubt." Mark Twain Or, we could say he does what his wife tells him to.

    May 6, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. counterww

    The reason he made these comments is that the media is pro Democratic party, pro leftist. If Benghansi had happened with Bush or ANY Republican in the Presidency, it would have been front line , front page news for weeks. All hell would have been loosed or broken out.

    The Justice is right. Live with it.

    May 6, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. nate

    The "elites" sure as hell did not want Clarence Thomas on the supreme court

    May 6, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  16. Tony

    Republican elites had to approve a black Supreme Court justice. That is why we have you around, Justice Thomas.

    May 6, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  17. David S

    Funny how the bitter nature of many of the comments here just prove his point.

    May 6, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. Andrew

    I'm sure the Koch Brothers approved Uncle Tom Thomas and Anthony "Il Duce" Scalia. Mainly by putting their hands and money up the back of their robes.

    May 6, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  19. Abraham

    Most of the comments on here seem to be proving his point.

    May 6, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. Polopoint

    I thought it was better when Clarence Thomas never said anything.

    May 6, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  21. blf83

    And ... we didn't want Mr. Thomas. We would prefer he open his mouth and his mind on Supreme Court cases instead of offering ridiculous opinions on politics.

    May 6, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  22. donna rochester

    Too bad he can't stay silent off the bench. He is an embarrassment to the Supreme Court and it was a mistake that he was ever seated. Get over yourself Mr. Thomas, you are fat, black and not too bright, no amount of trashing others more competent than yourself will ever make you any smarter and you should stop trying to be white. Not going to happen. Obama won because he was the best candidate and he has proven to be an outstanding president.

    May 6, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. B.

    Actually, the American people wanted Obama. How about the Supreme Court Judges stay Out of politics and do your jobs the way it was originally intended?

    May 6, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. pplr1

    I find it odd that someone who has hung out with billionaires complains about elites.

    That he was part of actively trying to pick the president in 2000 doesn't say much of him being "not into politics".

    As he seems to have benefited from affirmative action-both the policy and sharing the skin color of the person he replaced-it is funny for him to complain about tokenism.

    May 6, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  25. SwingState

    Media elites? Just who and where are these people? The media hasn't been all chummy with this president. Some people will believe in what they want to believe. Now that's a rich imagination.

    May 6, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
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