The PJ Tatler

Clyburn on 'Uncle Tom' Comment: 'All of Us Have Ways of Expressing Our Disappointment'

The assistant minority leader of the House defended a Mississippi colleague for calling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an “uncle Tom” and calling Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a racist.

On a New Nation of Islam radio program, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said McConnell opposes Obama’s initiatives because of the president’s skin color. And then, “there’s Uncle Tom Clarence Thomas. … When I look at the decisions he’s been a part of on the court, it’s almost like he doesn’t like black people, he doesn’t like being black.”

When asked on MSNBC this morning whether Thomas is an “uncle Tom,” Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) responded, “Well, I don’t know.”

“I think Bennie Thompson, as you know, is a very close friend. Ben and I knew each other for 20 years before we ever came to Congress,” Clyburn said. “All of us have ways of expressing our disappointment. I am very disappointed in Clarence Thomas.”

He added that Thomas is “not the only Supreme Court justice there now; we have nine of them.”

“As you know, there are certain words and phrases I did not use but I am — and I will never back away from this — I am extremely disappointed… We come to Congress, and we go these appointments, we are to bring to those bodies our experiences to help broaden the application of justice in this country,” Clyburn continued.

“And I talked to someone yesterday who told me they were highly insulted by some of the expressions that Clarence Thomas has made in his writings, in his opinions. A lot of African-Americans find his opinions very insulting. He has a right to that. Bennie Thompson is a very close personal friend. We don’t always use the same words and phrases.”

Thompson defended his remarks this week to CNN’s Dana Bash.

“Well, if you look at his decisions on the court, they have been adverse to the minority community, and the people I represent have a real issue with an African-American not being sensible to those issues,” he said, adding when asked if the words are racially charged that “it’s the truth.”

Bash noted that the term wouldn’t be appropriate used by someone who is white. “But I’m black,” Thompson replied.

“You’re asking me the question, and I’m giving you a response,” the congressman continued. “The people that I represent, for the most part, have a real issue with those decisions-voter ID, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act — all those issues are very important and for someone in the court who’s African American and not sensitive to that is a real problem.”