Justice Clarence Thomas said rookie Justice Neil Gorsuch is “outstanding” and the Supreme Court is a “wonderful place to work” in an interview that aired Wednesday night, though he lamented a certain emptiness at the court without his old friend, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The comments came during a rare media interview that Thomas gave to his former clerk, Laura Ingraham, who is hosting a new show on Fox News.
Thomas dislikes media interviews and almost never speaks up at oral arguments, but his booming voice fills the court room when he reads an opinion and he frequently speaks at schools across the country.
During the interview, he spoke broadly about his judicial philosophy, his bitter confirmation fight and the state of the country.
Ingraham began by asking him about some media reports that Gorsuch might have “ruffled some feathers” on the court because of his active questioning style and his fast pace to begin his tenure.
“He is a good man,” Thomas said, “and I have no idea what they are talking about.”
Asked about his own judicial philosophy, he said it was simply to “get it right” and to craft opinions that are accessible to “regular people.”
“I think we have to be careful not to take outcomes that we want and backwash that into the process of decision-making,” he said.
It’s been more than 25 years since his confirmation hearing erupted over Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claims against him, turning them both into household names.
“Was it worth it?” Ingraham asked.
“I think we are called to do certain things,” Thomas responded.
She also asked him if it bothered him that the Smithsonian opened a major museum meant to promote the contributions of African Americans, and until recently, hardly mentioned his name.
Thomas acknowledged that people who cared about him were bothered by the slight, but he wasn’t — except that it might have been a symptom of the fact that “we are getting quite comfortable in our society limiting ideas and exposure to ideas.”
Ingraham pressed Thomas at the end of the interview about the rancor in today’s society and the controversy concerning NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem.
Thomas did not address the controversy directly but spoke broadly about his life growing up in the segregated South. He said that when he was a child, “even as we had laws that held us apart,” he felt like society “held dear” to things people felt they had in common. He also expressed concerns about today’s society.
“I mean, what binds us?” he asked.