Clarence Thomas thinks Washington is "broken"

"At some point, we are going to have to recognize that we are destroying our institutions"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 28, 2016 5:47PM (EDT)


While speaking to an audience at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation on Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged that Washington is "broken."

"This city is broken in some ways," Thomas admitted. "At some point, we are going to have to recognize that we are destroying our institutions."

Thomas went even further then that, accepting that the Supreme Court itself may have played a role in the loss of faith people feel in their institutions.

“What have we done to gain their confidence? Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we have done to not earn it or to earn it."

Thomas also took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the late Antonin Scalia, whose conservative judicial philosophy was perceived as very similar to Thomas' own. Discussing Scalia's ideology, Thomas said, "He was from the North, and I was from the South, but we wound up at the same place."

Prior to Scalia's death, Thomas had a reputation as an unusually laconic justice. He hadn't asked a single question during oral arguments in 10 years until this February. He was widely perceived as a sidekick for Scalia, both because of their close friendship and the fact that their legal opinions were so often the same (prompting speculation that it wasn't a coincidence his first oral argument question in ten years came days after Scalia's death).

Aside from his reserved demeanor and ideological and personal closeness to Scalia, Thomas is perhaps best known for the infamous confirmation hearings that brought about his ascent to the Supreme Court. Anita Hill and at least two other women accused Thomas of sexually harassing them while working together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1980s. Another woman, Alaska attorney Moira Smith, came forward earlier this month to claim that Thomas groped her at an awards dinner in 1999, after he had already been confirmed to the Supreme Court.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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