There have been some classic “never quit” quotes over the years, some real, some unconfirmed but nevertheless referenced often, and some scripted for TV and movies and used in countless Internet memes.
Though Democrats would no doubt disagree (but who cares what they think on these matters anyway, right?), one of the most legendary authentic quotes of all time about standing firm in the midst of a storm came from then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who in 1991 was under relentless attack by Senate Democrats led by then-Senator Joe Biden, who was the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman at the time.
Unlike most SCOTUS nominees, Thomas was subjected to a double round of confirmation hearings after 11th-hour accusations of sexual harassment had female Democratic Senators successfully pushing Biden to reopen the hearings on those grounds. The campaign to destroy Thomas and his reputation was brutal, and a weaker man might have withdrawn to spare himself and his family from having to go through such an ordeal.
But Thomas, as we learned then and has been reaffirmed numerous times since, was not a weak man. And as the hearings dragged on, Democrats learned that the hard way.
At one point during the hearing, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Thomas about the rumors that he planned on backing out of the nomination, and asked what he was going to do. Thomas’ answer (seen on page 260 of the transcript here) was a prescient warning for conservatives as to how they should respond to similar baseless smear attacks from Democrats in the future:
Hatch: Judge, you’re here, though. Some people have been spreading the rumor that perhaps you’re going to withdraw. What’s Clarence Thomas going to do?
Thomas: I’d rather die than withdraw. If they’re gonna kill me they’re gonna kill me.
Hatch: So you’d still like to serve on the Supreme Court?
Thomas: I’d rather die than withdraw from the process. Not for the purpose of serving on the Supreme Court, but for the purpose of not being driven out of this process. I will not be scared. I don’t like bullies. I’ve never run from bullies. I never cry uncle and I’m not going to cry uncle today, whether I want to be on the Supreme Court or not.
Hatch: Well, Judge, I hope next Tuesday you make it and I believe you will, and I believe you should. And I believe it is important for every American that you do.
Because I think in your short 43 years of life that you have just about seen it all and if anybody’s in a position to help their fellow men and women under the Constitution, then I have to say you are. And I am proud of you. I am proud of you for not backing down.
Watch the classic exchange below:
"I'd rather die than withdraw. If they're going to kill me, they're going to kill me."
One of the most important and iconic moments of Justice Thomas's confirmation. It was a signal to the world that you should never let bullies win.
— Retired Orrin G. Hatch (@RetiredOrrin) May 28, 2021
I get goosebumps just watching that. Now more than ever we needed that reminder from Thomas, who was one of the originators of the “never bend a knee” quote in his own way.
Here’s a reminder, too, for Joe Biden on just how unsuccessful he was at stopping Thomas:
— Matthew Foldi (@MatthewFoldi) May 28, 2021
Fast forward to now, and it’s Thomas who is getting the last laugh – literally:
“Clarence Thomas laughs at things” would be a great account.
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) May 28, 2021
I love it. Can we keep him around forever?