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Justice defends his "differing views'

In an extraordinary meeting with an invited group of black journalists and other African-Americans, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas rejected suggestions that his opinions have hurt blacks or that he has forgotten his roots.

"I am not an Uncle Tom," he answered when asked about selling out to whites, according to a report in Thursday's Washington Afro-American newspaper that was confirmed by several people at the Wednesday meeting. "I do not pay attention to that nonsense. That is one of the problems we have as black people. We don't allow differing views."

Repeating a vow he has made before to remain on the court in spite of his critics, Thomas said: "I'm going to be here for 40 years. For those who don't like it, get over it."

Thomas, who would not talk about specific cases during the meeting, said criticism does not bother him and defended his version of a "colorblind Constitution."

"I disagree with the prevailing point of view of some black leaders that special treatment for blacks is acceptable," he said, according to the Afro-American.

Thomas also was quoted as saying: "It would seem that some black people want to say that when you, as a black, become successful, you cease to be black. That's ridiculous. If a white person becomes successful, (does he) cease to be white?"

Mainstream civil rights groups have been critical of Thomas' legal positions and his strong alliances with conservatives since President George Bush nominated him to the court in 1991.

Thomas has narrowly interpreted federal voting rights law and criticized specially drawn black-majority districts intended to enhance minorities' political power. He said longstanding judicial interpretations of voting rights law have caused the "racial Balkanization of the nation."

Armstrong Williams, a longtime Thomas friend who brought the group together, said he chose 30 people, including five journalists, who would be open to seeing Thomas as a "human being."

Williams, a local business executive and radio host who served as Thomas' confidential assistant at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has been a vocal supporter of Thomas.

Williams added that he intended to take a hand-picked group of reporters to the court every three months. He said he would choose only those who had demonstrated that they would be fair to Thomas.

Court public information officer Toni House said Thomas would not comment on the meeting.

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