May 29th, 2009
06:04 PM ET
9 years ago

WH calls Sotomayor wording 'poor'

President Obama said Friday that he believes his Supreme Court nominee 'would have restated' comments she made at Duke University in 2001.

President Obama said Friday that he believes his Supreme Court nominee 'would have restated' comments she made at Duke University in 2001.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Even as the White House pushes back at Republican attacks over a controversial comment by President Obama's Supreme Court pick Sonia Sotomayor, both the president and his top spokesman said Friday her wording wasn't the best.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," Sotomayor said at a university event in 2001. The remark has sparked accusations of racism from prominent conservatives like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who heads a non-profit that sent out an e-mail calling for Sotomayor to withdraw from consideration for the high court, and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who compared the judge Friday to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.

In an interview with NBC Friday, President Obama said Sotomayor's point could have been more clearly made. "I'm sure she would have restated it" if she had known how it would be interpreted, he said.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dismissed Limbaugh's attempt to draw parallels between Sotomayor and Duke, but called her choice of words a "poor" one.

"I've not talked specifically with her about this, but I think that she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judg[ing]," Gibbs said at his daily briefing. "That your personal experiences make you have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts and certain cases, that your experiences impact your understanding. I think we all agree with that, and that on a court that is collegial, that it can help others that are trying to wrestle with the facts of those cases."

Some members of the GOP, like National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, have said publicly that accusing Sotomayor of racism for the remark is the wrong approach for the party to take.

"This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent...." Cornyn told National Public Radio Thursday. "I certainly don't endorse it."

Filed under: President Obama • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Wilby

    I can think of far worse comments made by Republicans.

    May 29, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  2. ib

    Anyone who thinks this woman is not a racist needs to wake up and smell the roses. Look at these comments and then refusing to look at the firefighters questions. She is just another far left person like Obama.

    May 29, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  3. Marc in Virginia

    "I'm sure she would have restated it" if she had known how it would be interpreted. - NObama

    Yeah, hindsight is 20/20. But she did say it much like you said "typical white person" and then threw your grandma under the bus.

    May 29, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  4. Ia Guy

    So she's a proud latina, so what?! She has nothing to defend.

    May 29, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  5. SLM

    Of course it is a poor choice of why did she say it? It's not like an oops, it was a pretty strong statement that didn't just pop out her mouth, it was well thought out. She said exactly what she meant to say, there is no other way to try and wiggle out of this one. She should withdraw as nominee, if a white had said anything even remotely close to that statement, they would have been thrown out in a heart beat. Equality, isn't that what it is all about??

    May 29, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  6. arithmetic is liberal

    Thousands of precedents and the fear mongering nativists can only focus on a comment that mentions the word "Latina", and completely ignores the rest of the quote. Surprise, Surprise.

    Here's an idea: if you're too stupid to read; as in too stupid to read about a judicial record, or too stupid to read a full speech and too stupid to comprehend either the rulings or the context of the speech; then maybe you're too stupid to weigh in on this judge.

    May 29, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  7. SLM

    Wilby – So that makes it OK. Why is the Democrats only defense to attack Republicans? Point your finger at someone else to try and distract??

    May 29, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  8. shs

    Sotomayor is not the equivalent of David Duke. That's what Limbaugh is.

    May 29, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  9. Don

    I think her comments are honest and true. All our experiances as who we are would effect the way we view things. There was nothing racist about what she said. I am now starting to see that it was the rebublicans who have been using the race card and almost bet this is how Hillary and Bill became racist also. No issue here. She will be a fine Justice.

    May 29, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  10. fools, fooled by obama

    Sotomayor–La Raza-Racism

    May 29, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  11. Republicans are the American Taliban

    No more of a racist than Rev. Huckabee and his comments about RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Where is the Republican outrage there? Rush " Tokyo Rose " Limbaugh spews hate and venom each and every day yet not one word of outrage.....

    May 29, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  12. arithmetic is liberal

    SLM May 29th, 2009 6:13 pm ET

    She should withdraw as nominee, if a white had said anything even remotely close to that statement, they would have been thrown out in a heart beat. Equality, isn't that what it is all about??

    Once Sotomayor is confirmed, the silence on her from the right will be deafening. And she WILL be confirmed, no matter what the talking heads tell you. You'll move on to your next inevitable solutionless tantrum; cry, scream, beat your fists on the pavement and go 'Soto-who?'

    You could have cared less about this woman until you were told what you should be caring about. She hasn't ruled on Roe v Wade so you can't throw a tantrum about that, and instead pick a single quote out of an entire speech to huff and puff about.

    Enough, already.

    May 29, 2009 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  13. Thomas5

    For those who say we're taking her words out of context, perhaps someone would be so kind as to explain the full context to the rest of us, so that we don't misinterpret it in the future.

    May 29, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  14. Milton Smith

    I wish oil and coal etc.. went into carbon fiber replacing everything with carbon fiber then our children would be rich.

    May 29, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  15. DC

    I do not understand how people can misconstrue this statement as something of a racial nature. She is conveying that she grew up with different experiences than a typical white male, which sadly, is the overwhelming majority of the court today and throughout history. Do you think Newt Gingrich has had any of the experiences of someone who grew up in the projects? Do not kid yourself, his life experience is nothing more than living in a padded bubble. She was stressing that she is a judge of the people, which I for one consider to be important.

    May 29, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  16. Brad, California

    No poorer a choice of words then those used on a daily basis by Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Carl Rove, etc. And it's about time we had someone on the US Supreme Court to offset some of the lame a$$e$ that we are stuck with now.

    And why is a has-been like Newt Gingrich even called "prominent" any more when he is as out-of-touch with what's happening in America as George Bush and his entire crew were?

    May 29, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  17. Mac

    I gaurentee that most of the morons on here that are accusing this judge of being a racist have not read the entire speech. I agree with the statement that it was a 'poor choice of words'. Read the speech and listen to the context. Otherwise you are just spitting up Limbaugh talking points. You have to research and educate yourself on a topic BEFORE you pass judgment. READ the entire statement not just the single line, and you will see that it would be very hard to accuse her as a racist because of that SINGLE statement.

    May 29, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  18. USA Patriot

    Sounds like to me people are really playing to the uninformed. No matter what party you are in, unless people are trying to prop up an opposing opinion, reasonable Americans wouldn't give much weight to isolated soundbytes taken out of context. Frankly both sides are guilty of this. Hey! Give us a break for having some sense. Hopefully those mindless "I'm-not-paying-attention" days are gone.

    May 29, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  19. nom deplume, esq.

    Maybe Gibbs and Obama can help her with writing opinions as well. That way, we could save on law clerk salaries, and Obama can be assured of getting the wording he wants.

    May 29, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  20. JG

    Are they kidding with this "racist" stuff? This is laughable, especially coming from people who have enjoyed inherent privledges in this country since its beginning. What a joke.

    Why do people get bent out of shape when a "minority" get nominated to a high position and act like their rights are going to be taken away the minute he/she gets the job.

    Here's what feels racist......A hispanic woman gets nominated and all that gets brought up is race. least she isn't getting bashed for being a woman, I guess we've moved beyond that. hahaha


    May 29, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  21. Andi

    Good Lord, people. Read the REST of her comment. There are other sentences involved.

    May 29, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  22. Dawn in Pa

    Has anyone in their lives had said something that they could take back? If you say NO way Jose, that my friend is a total untruth. We all have made statments that we wish we could take back. Like my husband always said, "Loose lips sinks ships"

    I believe all her ruling are on the internet and you can see what she has done and she had onlt three over turned.

    May 29, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  23. john

    The speech was at Berkeley, not Duke.

    May 29, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  24. David

    I weep for the level of discourse in this country. To suggest this woman withdraw over such an innocuous comment shows the true depths to which we have sunk in this "civil" society.

    Look at the comment again and then put a "real life" case before the court wherein a poor, struggling, single mother is on trial for something. Now, who is going to have a "better" understanding and thus more capable of making a better decision re: such case?

    Is this the best they can come up with for dimissing her? Are the Dittoheads REALLY so very clueless that they would goosetep along with Rush on this? Amazing!

    May 29, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  25. Bubba, Sunnyvale, CA

    This whole argument about "had a white man said...." is a bit hollow. The funny thing is, everybody knows it's hollow and yet they pretend to be turing machines or something. It's similar to arguments made by people who'd like female teachers to be sent to prison for life for sleeping with a 16 year old boy. "Had this been a male teacher...." yada yada yada. The point is, yes there are double standards and for good reason. Sotomayor's remark does not offend white people... I cant prove it but I know it does not and I know you know it does not... so let's stop pretending it does. The day this remark REALLY offends white people, let's talk about whether it was appropriate or not.

    May 29, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
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