Clarence Thomas says in new book he had ‘no idea why or how’ he got nominated for SCOTUS


Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says in new book he had ‘no idea why or how’ he ended up being nominated to the bench and ‘celebrated’ when he thought he didn’t get picked

  • Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in interviews published in a new book that he wasn’t sure why he was nominated 
  • He even ‘celebrated not being nominated’ when he thought President George H.W. Bush had passed him up 
  • ‘I have no idea why or how I got nominated,’ Thomas said, according to the book Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words 
  • Thomas also admitted that he ‘hadn’t thought about’ the abortion issue in the run-up to his 1991 confirmation hearings 
  • Thomas was one of the six conservative Supreme Court justices to strike down Roe v. Wade with Friday’s Dobbs decision
  • He went a step further on a concurring opinion by suggesting cases legalizing contraception and same-sex marriage should get another look as well 

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas  said in interviews published in a new book that he wasn’t sure why he was nominated for the Supreme Court – and ‘celebrated not being nominated’ when he thought President George H.W. Bush had passed him up. 

‘I have no idea why or how I got nominated,’ Thomas said, according to the book Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, which came out earlier this month. 

Thomas also admitted that he ‘hadn’t thought about’ the abortion issue in the run-up to his 1991 confirmation hearings.  

Thomas was one of the six conservative Supreme Court justices to strike down Roe v. Wade with Friday’s Dobbs decision, going a step further by filing a concurring opinion suggesting that cases legalizing contraception and same-sex marriage should get another look from the court as well. 

Created Equal was a companion project to a documentary on Thomas released in 2020 by filmmaker Michael Pack, who led the U.S. Agency for Global Media under former President Donald Trump, and Mark Paoletta, a lawyer who worked alongside Thomas during his confirmation. 

Pack interviewed Thomas for more than 30 hours between November 2017 and March 2018 – which became the basis for the film and then the book. 

Thomas made clear to Pack that he wasn’t enthusiastic about being nominated to the court – and also hadn’t thought much about the abortion issue going into his confirmation hearings. 

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in interviews published in a new book that he wasn't sure why he was nominated for the Supreme Court and 'celebrated not being nominated' when he thought President George H.W. Bush had passed him up

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in interviews published in a new book that he wasn’t sure why he was nominated for the Supreme Court and ‘celebrated not being nominated’ when he thought President George H.W. Bush had passed him up

Created Equal was a companion project to a 2020 documentary with the same name by filmmaker Michael Pack. Mark Paoletta, a lawyer who worked with Thomas during his confirmation, co-edited the tome

Created Equal was a companion project to a 2020 documentary with the same name by filmmaker Michael Pack. Mark Paoletta, a lawyer who worked with Thomas during his confirmation, co-edited the tome 

Thomas told Pack he received a call from White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray the afternoon that Justice Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement from the court in 1991. 

Marshall was the first black Supreme Court justice.  

‘All I know is that Justice Marshall retired, and that was a shock,’ Thomas recalled. ‘My reaction was, “Oh no, this is going to be bad. People will go on a rumor that I’m one of the nominees.”‘ 

Gray had lawyer Mark Paoletta, the co-editor of the book, take Thomas to the situation room at the Justice Department where he was asked which justice his views were most in line – Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas said – and if he’d been hassled for being in an interracial marriage. 

‘And I said only from liberals and bigots, and that’s pretty much it,’ Thomas said. 

The next day he went to the White House ‘where I sat for most of the morning and they didn’t decide anything.’ 

‘And I was told if they didn’t decide by before the weekend, it wouldn’t be me,’ Thomas recounted. ‘That’s what I thought but maybe I misheard that.’ 

‘Saturday morning came, I wasn’t nominated, and I said, “Free at last,”‘ he said. ‘I had a new Corvette and Virginia and I drove to Annapolis and celebrated not being nominated,’ Thomas said, referencing his wife Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas. Ginni Thomas has been scrutinized over her role in wanting to push the ‘big lie’ in advance of the January 6 Capitol attack.  

On Sunday, however, he received a call from Bush, who invited him up to the compound on Kennebunkport the next day. 

On the flight Monday, Thomas said he became ‘a little suspicious’ when a number of high-profile White House officials were on his plane, leaving him wondering if there were still other contenders. 

‘Who’s riding with the other people?’ he said he wondered. 

It was First Lady Barbara Bush who accidentally informed Thomas he got the job, telling him ‘congratulations’ before her husband had formally made the offer. 

‘And she said “congratulations,” and then my heart sank. And she said, “Oh I guess I let the cat out of the bag,’ he recalled. 

Thomas noted that during his 1991 confirmation the one area that Bush White House officials wouldn’t ask him about was abortion. 

‘They absolutely would not discuss Roe v. Wade with me. They would not discuss abortion because they knew I was going to be asked about it at some point. And they wanted me to be able to say that I did not discuss it with them,’ Thomas recalled. 

During the hearings, Democratic senators pressed Thomas to commit where he would rule on abortion – something he wouldn’t do. 

‘One, I didn’t now,’ he said. ‘And two, I had just read all of those cases again.’ 

Thomas pointed out that when he took constitutional law in law school it was in 1972 – a year before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. 

‘I was more interested in the race issues. I was more interested in getting out of law school. I was more interested in passing the bar exam. My life was consumed by survival. I couldn’t pay my rent. I couldn’t repay my student loans,’ Thomas said. ‘I had all these other things going on, that you were navigating, these worlds you’re navigating.’ 

Sexual harrassment allegations made by a former colleague, Anita Hill, rocked Thomas’ confirmation hearings – but he was still confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a narrow vote of 52 to 48, with 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats voting in his favor.

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