Anthony Weiner on the Obligation to Recuse

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, Anthony Weiner, US Congressman (Democrat from District 9, parts of Brooklyn and Queens), talks about the deal to fund the federal government for two more weeks, offensive statues, and other Congressional matters.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is being called upon to recuse himself from ruling on the legality of healthcare reform due to the contributions and financial gain that his wife has enjoyed from anti-health reform clients. Speaking recently to a conservative law student symposium, Thomas referred to the criticism as the “price to pay for standing for your constitution” and acknowledges that he shares his wife's values. Congressman Anthony Weiner finds this a clear case in which recusal is necessary.

[Thomas] digs a deeper hole for himself, requiring under the clear letter of the law that he has to recuse himself. Even before he made those remarks, it was clear that he had a financial stake in the outcome of the case, which is a clear condition that you should recuse yourself.

While he said that Mrs. Thomas has "every right in the world to participate in the political process however she wants, and to even make a lot of money doing it," he takes issue with the Justice's statement indicating that compliance with the obligations for recusal amounts to yoking Justice Thomas in his pursuit of the defense of liberty. 

I guess I’m against liberty because I believe in having this law upheld on its constitutionality.

The difference here, he said, is that if there is a conflict of interest for one of the judges, yet they do not recuse, there is no way to appeal.

It’s not like a lower court... They are the highest court in the land so the standards should be extra tough, and it’s clear in the case, that it is not on the level.

The congressman said while some of Ginny Thomas’ clients are just generally conservative; there are two organizations, Liberty Consulting and Liberty Central, which are explicitly boasting of her connections as a tool to raise money. Title 20 of the US code says that if there is a financial interest in the subject matter, for either the judge or their spouse, the judge is obligated has to recuse themself. In Thomas' case, Weiner added, the information only became recently public.

For thirteen years, Justice Thomas on his financial disclosures failed to disclose the income of his spouse, and that adds even further suspicion that they were trying to keep it private, but it certainly is clear that the perception is there of conflict, and with that perception comes the requirement to recuse.

Weiner said this is not rhetorical pushback for the conservative call for Justice Kagan to recuse herself, and he would not take a deal in which neither recuse. 

Kagan has recused herself from more than half the cases before her and has made it very clear in each instance why she has done that.

The congressman does not see a conflict for Justice Kagan, who he said only attended one meeting on healthcare reform and had no role in drafting or defending the law. 

It is clear to me that Clarence Thomas has a conflict here, and if someone wants to make an equal case on Kagan, they're free to do it but so far the facts don't bear it out.

The congressman said he feels that Thomas is being reckless "in adding to the fuel of speculation that he’s already made up his mind about this.” He clarified that he does not believe Justices must be silent or refrain from speaking at functions, but they must exercise prudence in what they say. 

I do believe that it is an extraordinarily important thing that they not give the impression that they’re engaging in politics. Ever since Bush v. Gore in 2000, I think many Americans have wondered if the Supreme Court is just a third political branch of government, and [Thomas] has been reckless in reinforcing that concern.

If Thomas "had ever spoken from the bench" said Weiner, speaking of Thomas' negative comments about the commerce clause of the law, "he could say that sort of thing from the bench”. However Weiner said that Thomas refering to it in his speech while reiterating his connection to his wife and his agreement with the values she is working to promote are reason for him to recuse. 

Weiner does not think it is inappropriate to use the interstate commerce law to support the individual mandate in the health care reform. 

People, by acting to not get health insurance, are participating in interstate commerce. Even though they haven’t chosen to do so, the fact that they’re not, is saying ‘I want everyone else to pay for my emergency health care costs if I don’t have insurance.’ So that failure to purchase healthcare is indeed an action.. You’re actively making the decision to have someone else cover your healthcare costs. That decision puts you right in the middle of this national discussion.



More in:

Comments [10]


You admit you have never seen it. It is definatly NOT art. It is poorly carved and very, very ugly. The main figure has a fat ass, no muscle tone, and a blank bland expressionless slab of a face. It couldn't be sold, because no one would want it.

Mar. 03 2011 10:45 AM

I think NYC had enough of art censorship with Giuliani.

When will you be going through the museums of NYC to demand other art works be removed?

This is just...beneath a serious liberal.

Mar. 03 2011 10:33 AM
Steve from Englewood

About "Civic Virtue": How about selling it? Has Anthony thought of contacting Charlie Sheen?

Mar. 03 2011 10:33 AM
Tab from NYC

From what I remember, LaGuardia had the staue removed not because of any ethical offense, but because it was not so nice to look at. MacMonnies, the sculptor was at a crossroads in art history/culture, wherein the art world was moving into embracing abstraction, and he, ironically was bringing more realism to the somewhat idealized late Classicized canon.
The statue was exiled, not for any other reason than that it was vewed as a too-real depiction of a beefy nakjed guy who could have lived next door, not an idealized paragon of virtue.

Mar. 03 2011 10:30 AM

What next, Rep. Weiner?

Remove Genesis from the Old Testament -- after all woman is depicted as defiled by the serpent and then representing bringing all evil to mankind. Or at least those parts pertaining to the apple, the woman, and the serpent?

C'mon! This statue is a piece of art, considered, as I've read, to be a very, very fine example of the art form. And, it depicts an allegory -- it is not a real man subduing two real women. Crikey.

Please, Anthony, promote single payer health care, something which will help everyone. Not just a pol trying to, what, burnish some kind of

This seems beneath you. PLEASE spend your political capital on legislation which will help people. Like getting Obama to NOT cut, oh, LIHEAP funds. Any number of other things he's going after in his inimitable pre-compromising negotiations with the Republicans. Concessions is his middle name -- or first name? Fight that, please.

Mar. 03 2011 10:30 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Thomas is a symptom, not the disease...

It takes $100,000/year to have the equivalent buying power of a $3/hr worker in 1968. If the government had protected the buying power of the average worker, many of our economic woes - national healthcare, the deficit, et al. -- would be irrelevant. Since the economy has been run as a rigged game for forty years, those folks who benefitted most will have to do the heavy lifting to fix things and make the U.S.A a country to take pride in again.

Mar. 03 2011 10:25 AM

i walk past that stupid statue twice every weekday. it is so ugly besides being horribly sexist. a carved piece of stone is not automaticly "art". smash it please!

Mar. 03 2011 10:23 AM
Robert from NYC

Reminds me of the catholic catacism book of the 50s where it was always the little girl who represented evil and sin. Mortal sin showed a little girl with a black heart while the little boy had a white and pure heart!!!

Mar. 03 2011 10:22 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Clarence and Virgina Thomas; what a nice couple!

Mar. 03 2011 10:17 AM

keep tax dollars in ny
will weiner support cutting red state socialism, like farm aid for agribusiness

Mar. 03 2011 10:02 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by