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. ed galbraith

    Thomas' inability or desire to ask no questions is beyond rational explanation. When one hears an intellectual debate (i.e.,argument before the S, Court) and NO question occurs to the listener, ever, you are dealing with an empty chair or a dysfunctional personality.

    May 6, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. Jill-IN

    This article is absolute proof that Clarence Thomas should step down from the Supreme Court. How utterly ridiculous and disrespectful of the American people. To say that the majority of us are the elite and that we cannot make well thought out, careful and sensible decisions about who we vote for is beyond the pale.

    May 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. Manuel J.

    Amen TDJ!!! People (i.e. LIBERALS) don't like an uppety black man who can think for himself!

    Dr. Benjamin West is a prominent neurosurgeon, who happens to be African-American, and who called out Obama and Liberals on their misguided social and medical views. It was hard to refute Dr. West, since Obama and others NOT in the medical field could NOT hold an intelligible argument against Dr. West!!!

    May 6, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. Lizzie

    BIll, you show your bias, Thomas is a conservative and we certainly can't have that on the Supreme Court, but Judges like Ruth B. Ginsburg who openly stated that she will NOT follow the constitution, or Sonia Sotomajor or Elena Kagan who are so far left and got the positions because they vote as told by this administration.

    May 6, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. JamesJSherry

    Judge Thomas should resign from the court, or be removed for his comments. Furthermore, there should be term limits for the justices.

    May 6, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. Toast93

    Of course they wanted Obama. They also want capitalism torn down and the constitution shredded. And anyone who speaks out against the left is a "racist" or a "terrorist." It's pathetic. They actually like what's going on.

    May 6, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. bob

    This man is intellectually and morally bankrupt. He does not deserve to be on this court.

    May 6, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. Paul Williamson

    Thomas was completely unqualified to be a Supreme Court Justice, it was purely a political appointment. He is completely clueless, and has not made one significant contribution to the Court in 16 years. What opinions has he written? And he iis criticizing President Obama, who actually has accomplished a number of important achievements since he has been in office; the majority of the people recognize that, he got elected twice by a sizeable majority of citizens, whereas Thomas has never been elected to ANY office-not even justice of the peace..

    May 6, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. ghostriter

    Since republicans rode Collin Powell out of the party and Herman Cain is no longer a republican, the GOP needed a new face man.

    May 6, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  10. The Other Bob


    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?
    I guess you're right, except about winning a "popularity campaign." Bush lost the popular vote in 2000. That's who you're talking about, right?

    May 6, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  11. alpg49

    Thomas should be impeached. Incompetence plus conflict of interest because of his wife. Period. This was Bush 41's most cruel joke!

    May 6, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  12. frank thomas

    A programmed robot to vote no on any liberal case and yes on every conservative case would have been better than this excuse for a judge, The only reason he is on the court is because he is a conservative black, how sad and he will ilivea long time

    May 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  13. mom

    Thomas is 100% per cent right on. People just do not want to hear it, that's all. Many people know the truth about BO. He has serious background problems and is quite unqualified to be where he is, but doing one's utmost to expose the truth about him is very risky. There is no doubt he has been helped by the elimination of people who knew what he is.

    May 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  14. Steven Colo

    Dunno what he's blathering about. Hillary Clinton was the establishment candidate. Barack Obama had to run the campaign of a lifetime to wrest the nomination from her.

    May 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. nigel

    Our silent judge .............
    Then, suddenly, he opens his mouth and out comes a black guy's chip on the shoulder.

    May 6, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. SV

    A man who doesn't care to ask questions, who doesn't reach out to know those around him, who doesn't talk much...sounds like we have a sociopath on the Supreme Court. And that's about the best thing I can say about Clarence Thomas.

    May 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  17. Mark Erjavek

    Clarence is too busy watching porno to sak any questions. He din't call himself "long dong silver" for nothing. That's what he will be remembered for; oh and that other thing he did LYING TO CONGRESS TO GET APPOINTED!

    May 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. Manuel J.

    @ sly... the reason YOU ARE part of the 47% is obvious. The market has run up 46% because of the US dollar's devaluation (i.e. fiscal stimulus/near-zero percent rates)!!!

    YOU AND OTHERS ARE LIKE OBAMA. You are NOT MAN ENOUGH to do the job with whining and blaming. LAME!!

    May 6, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  19. Madison

    Sly, the war in Afghanistan is still going, so no, Obama has not ended "2 Bush oil wars." The stock market being at 15000 still has not resulted in a significant reductiion in the unemployment rate, which is at 7.5% right now, not anywhere close to 4% as you seem to think. The reason the stock market is so high is because businesses have found a way to profit without increasing their costs. Businesses aren't hiring people at a high rate because they fear the effects of tax increases and the additional costs of Obamacare. Oh, and by the way, the 7.5% unemployment rate is fairly deceiving because a lot of the new hires are part timers that are being used to make up for full time workers in order to avoid the tax inreases and Obamacare costs.

    May 6, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  20. John

    The elite's? I'm pretty sure they voted for Romney. LOL

    May 6, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. Tony

    A majority of voters voted for Obama twice. These "elites" must think that they are better than Justice Thomas. They are right.

    May 6, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  22. Peace

    Fox News must be happy. The list of: "Blacks for Fox" is growing!

    May 6, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. Wallstreetcrime

    "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.

    That says it all...and the fact that his wife is a lobbyist says a lot more.

    Thomas is a bigot and his words and actions are the proof. He resents that a man with dark skin is in office because he despises his own race. He married a white woman, clings to conservatives who have proven over and over again to be suspicious of minorities, benefited from affirmative action but now hates it...

    Guess what Clarence, the elites approved of you and that's the ONLY reason you are where you are now.

    May 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  24. IvotedforObama

    I make less than 50,000 a year and I voted for him. Am I elite?

    May 6, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  25. Chet Hawks

    He should take the same advice that he uses on the bench and just shut his mouth!!

    May 6, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
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