Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas suggested on Friday that liberals and supporters of abortion rights are throwing “temper tantrums” over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Thomas, the Court’s longest-serving member, was speaking in Dallas, Texas at a conference organized by conservative groups including the American Enterprise Institute and the Manhattan Institute.
He bemoaned the recent leak of a draft majority opinion that would overturn the precedent set in 1973’s landmark Roe ruling and suggested it had damaged the nation’s highest court.
Thomas referred to recent abortion rights protests outside the homes of some of the conservative justices and argued that the left was engaging in tactics that conservatives would not.
“You would never visit Supreme Court justices’ houses when things didn’t go our way,” Thomas said. “We didn’t throw temper tantrums. It is incumbent on us to always act appropriately, and not to repay tit for tat.”
Thomas said that conservatives had “never trashed a Supreme Court nominee” but he did acknowledge that Merrick Garland had not received a hearing when former President Barack Obama nominated him to the Court in 2016.
“You will not see the utter destruction of a single nominee,” Thomas said. “You will also not see people going to other people’s houses, attacking them at dinner at a restaurant, throwing things on them.”
Thomas referred to Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh‘s contentious 2018 confirmation hearing. His own 1991 confirmation process was also highly controversial and involved accusations of sexual harassment, which he denied.
The conservative justice also appeared to defend Senate Republicans’ decision not to grant Garland a hearing in 2016, saying they were following a rule suggested by President Joe Biden when he was a senator “which is you get no hearing in the last year of an administration.”
The so-called Biden Rule, which was invoked by then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), is not a Senate rule but rather a suggestion Biden made in 1992 at a time when there was no open seat on the Supreme Court. Biden had argued that nominees to the Court should not be considered during presidential elections.
Earlier in his remarks on Friday, Thomas addressed the leaked majority opinion that was published by Politico earlier this month.
“What happened at the court is tremendously bad,” he said. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them.”
Thomas said the leak was “like kind of an infidelity.”