Rep. James Clyburn (D., S.C.) would not criticize fellow Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson's (D., Miss.) remarks about black Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas being an "Uncle Tom" Friday on Morning Joe, only saying Thompson was a friend and that he was also "disappointed" in Thomas.
Host Joe Scarborough pressed Clyburn repeatedly on the issue, but Clyburn could only offer that he "didn't know" if Thomas was an "Uncle Tom," a derogatory term for African Americans viewed as betraying their race.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: You think it's all right to be calling a Supreme Court justice an Uncle Tom?
JAMES CLYBURN: All of us have ways of expressing our disappointments. I am very disappointed in Clarence Thomas.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think he's an Uncle Tom?
CLYBURN: Well, I don't know.
SCARBOROUGH: You don't know if a Supreme Court justice is an Uncle Tom?
CLYBURN: Well, he's not the only Supreme Court justice there. We have nine of them.
It's not clear what point Clyburn was trying to make by saying there are nine Supreme Court justices.
For his part, Thompson has refused to back off his comments.
"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," Thompson told CNN.
Clyburn said he may have used different wording on the issue.
"Bennie Thompson is a very close personal friend," Clyburn said. "We don't always use the same words and phrases."
Co-host Mika Brzezinski eventually cut off the conversation, saying the two were going around in circles.