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. Parfin Woodell

    Joi Gibson

    WTH is he talking about! It's called voting.

    You sure can vote for anybody you want.
    As long as they are pre-approved.

    May 6, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Keith

    Probably can't think of enough words to form a question.

    May 6, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. ST

    This man is insulting everyone who is not elite and don't work with the media. Does he mean that folks can not think themselves, unless they hear what the elites and media tell them what to do? He owes everyone an apology.

    May 6, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. BILL_CA

    A man who did nothing notable with no real experience and associated with questionable characters is suddenly sitting in the office of the president after a popularity campaign. Why else would he be there but manipulation of public opinion through public and social media?

    May 6, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. yogi

    The only reason he never asked questions is that he lacks the intelectual skills to participate, and just follows the other righties on the court with a yes or a no.

    May 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. brm

    I am not a Thomas fan at all. We have had a president in the white house for two terms 2001-2009 that clearly wasnt qualified. Why can't we have a unqualified black man in the supreme court.

    May 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. TDJ

    Many comments here validate Justice Thomas viewpoint: he will never be "black enough" because he's not a raging liberal, and he has paid the price, and continues to do so.

    Hattip to Justice Thomas.

    May 6, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. sly

    I don't care if us '47%' are really 'elite' rich folks, or poor 'entitled' folks (the Republicans can't quite make up their mind on this one).

    I do know our stock market is approaching 16,000, unemployment going to around 4%, President Obama has ended the 2 Bush Oil Wars and destroyed our 2 biggest enemies.

    These are good times for America – our prosperity is returing!

    Thank you Mr. President!

    May 6, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  9. stevetall

    This guy still doesn't understand his job. He's an opportunist who is enriching himself with his tainted opinions. A Supreme Court justice should recuse himself from politics lest we get the idea that he is as corrupt as our modern politicians. Oh, yeah. We're talking Clarence Thomas here. He is corrupt and confused. Just look at his investment portfolio and his wife's cushy job.

    May 6, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  10. rrinbr

    Wisdom from the judge who got his degree because of affirmative action, and then sets out to deny it for everyone else. Amazing how much self-hatred is in this man.

    May 6, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. LeeCMH

    It is Clarence who was chosen by elites, the Republican elites, who wanted rubber stamp for their political purposes.

    Also, it seems that every time I hear a quote from Clarence, it is hateful and clearly resentful.

    It seems Clarence has been mashing his sour grapes for 16 whole years. Bitter.

    May 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. Bill

    Thomas is the most intellectually challenged Supreme Court Justice of the last 100 years. An angry idealogue, who never should have been confirmed.

    May 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. Steven Harnack

    @Pushover, Contrary to your apparent belief, juries ARE empowered to ask questions. The fact that they don't use this ability is one of the reasons that juries so often convict the wrong person and makes jury trials more about show than fact. And as for digging up dirt, if it wasn't there it couldn't be dug up could it?

    May 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. Floyd from Illinois

    Let me get this straight – Thomas can sit on the USSC and not say a word, not aska single question of appellants, literally for years at a time, but can make public, political statements about the President – an activity which centuries of USSC tradition has frowned upon?

    Doesn't anyone see anything wrong with this?

    May 6, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. MBW

    Haha...Because no elite approval whatsoever is required to get a Supreme Court appointment.....

    "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3

    May 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. MakeThemEatCake

    I like the explaination that the mainstream media, entertainment industry, business leaders that are defined as "liberal" are "elites" but right wing media, entertainment industry, business leaders that are defined as "conservative" are not. Are the elite all those educated and successful or just those that disagree with the right wing in this country.

    May 6, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    This is what an "angry" Black man looks like wearing a robe.

    May 6, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. Jerry

    Double wow. How unusual. Here's a Black man that is not intimidated by Obama and his cronies/misguided supporters (the truth is sometimes hard to digest, huh); white or Black. WOW!!! How refreshing!

    Justice Thomas, PLEASE continue to speak your mind!!! Don't let Obama, or, anyone else silence you!

    May 6, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. Lizzie

    Parfin Woodell, we all would have LIKED if that was true, but the MEDIA and the elites of this country elected him, they destroyed the other candidate with lies and innuendos and put their candidate on a pedestal with a halo

    May 6, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. glorydays

    He should be impeached. He is an embarrassment to the US.

    May 6, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  21. rob

    Incompetent. That's why he never asks questions.

    May 6, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  22. Steven Harnack

    I suppose that a Supreme Court Justice does not consider himself to be one of the "elite"? I guess he hasn't spent much time with a dictionary either.

    May 6, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  23. olepi

    Wow! Who knew?

    Thomas can actually TALK!

    Well, I knew he could speak if he was paid, or was pushing his wife's political agenda (no conflict of interest THERE), but I didn't know he could actually speak on his own.

    Or was he paid for this too?

    May 6, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  24. stephen contreras

    Ive never been impressed by thomas although i commend his achievements.

    May 6, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  25. MJ Slattery

    Because you can do a job without asking questions does not me you should. It proves or underscores absolutely nothing. Silence is not golden when the weight of this courts decisions impacts every single person in this country. To me, not asking questions in his position reeks of insecurity, and is an absolute shirking of his responsibility.

    May 6, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
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