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. JT

    Amazing racial statements here. What the Republicans don't even seem to be aware of is that the GOP is who is in the spotlight here, much more than Sotomayor.

    Over 80% of America don't want anything to do with their party. Of the 20%, or less, left in the Republican party, How many have been repulsed by all the racial and sexist statements coming out of their party this week alone?

    May 29, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  2. Pee Wee

    I'm syre the framers of the Constitution would have restated it, if they had known how it was going to be interpreted too.

    May 29, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  3. Andres

    Obama is trying to act like a grownup, but unfortunately, he is dealing with idiots on the Republican side who are race baiting and trying everything possible to fire up their bigoted base. I think the country and the world would be far better off if the Republican base slinked off to their little bigotted, homophobic, religiously intolerant part of the world. Preferrably, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

    May 29, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  4. Pete

    Obama took less time to pick a Supreme Court Justice than to pick a candidate among many qualified puppies for the WH!

    Curious to know, which of the two had the most qualifications???

    May 29, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  5. JimS.

    Is this all they got to complain about? Ha.

    Keep digging, GOP, keep digging.

    You can p*ss off women and Hispanic voters at the same time here– hey, double-word-score! Before long you'll have no consitituency at all left. So, keep up the good work!

    May 29, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  6. Dan, TX

    Whute House and Barack Obama will do anything to cover it up. He has done it for himself while campaigning. He has his radical agenda under his sleeve and people must realize it by now. We cannot have radical judge like Sotomayor. Get rid of her.

    May 29, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  7. Kevin -- Evansville, Indiana

    These Republicans are projecting their own racist feelings onto Sotomayor. Anyone with half-a-brain can figure out what she meant. She wasn't making an offensive statement.

    But it's not like the GOP ever planned on giving anyone Obama nominated a fair chance, since they are such sore and pathetic losers. Reminds me of the old Grouco Marx song "Whatever it is, I'm against it" They are just looking for something –anything - to validate their emotional and childish pre-judgements.

    - another ex-Republican.

    May 29, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  8. Sam

    OH really? This junk about mis-spoke, restated, out of context IS REALLY GETTING OLD!

    Do you people think the American people are that stupid?

    May 29, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  9. Mike in SA

    This was not a quick off-the-cuff response to a question. This was a prepared speech that presumably she wrote and then rehearsed. She had plenty of time and multiple chances to make the language more appropriate if that was not what she meant. Apparently that is what she meant. I;m sure she'll do the "I know, I know, this is on tape and I probably shouldn't be saying this. I don't advocate this or promote this (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)".

    If this language was brought before her as evidence in a case, I have little question what her verdict would be. And yes, I've read the whole speech. It is very apparent that she believes that women and people of color hold a corner on life experiences. Contrary to what is being pushed, she did not credit the white Justices for Brown vs. Board, but more the black attorneys in the case. I wonder what she feels about the Dems blocking Miguel Estrada's candidacy for 28 months from 2001-2003 until he finally gave up and withdrew.

    May 29, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  10. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    How might she have expressed the same idea of cultural and sexual bias in different words? I don't believe it's possible. "Judicial temperament" requires judges to set aside their personal biases and prejudices which evryone has but which they must consciously suspend on the bench. She has stated that she does not agree. That is a lack of temperament.

    May 29, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  11. Fitz in Texas

    They call her wording poor. Why would Obama and his administration say or think that. Sonia Sotomayor said exactly what Obama would have said and Sonia Sotomayor said exactly what Obama feels. Mr. Obama, Sonia Sotomayor is you.

    May 29, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  12. kjs

    I would hate to have my whole life's work judged by one poorly worded statement. I say things that could have been said better pretty much everyday. That 's what human beings do.

    May 29, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  13. Kerry, CA

    Perhaps the wording could have been better, but she is not racist. Remember the old saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes? She is correct that a Latina woman is going to have a different take on some situations and on how to interpret an apply laws in a constitution that was written by white males.

    May 29, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  14. Bill in CA

    She'e worse than David Duke? Really? Is she worse than Alito? Is her character so in question that she needs to be impeached? Grow some cajones and go for it Rethugs.Or maybe this is just another talking point to whip up your already foaming at the mouth base.

    May 29, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  15. Mark, Warwick RI

    Eloquence is a requirement for getting this job.

    May 29, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  16. Shar

    Its not poor wording it was just public recorded wording and thats the clincher here. She only said what hundreds upon hundreds of "none white" americans think already! All she needs to do is let Newt and Rush keep running their empty pie holes and her words from 8yrs ago, will be long forgotten and she will be confirmed.

    May 29, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  17. tess

    of course she would re-state that stupid comment! just like every thing else about this white house, when the public really finds out about the details they don't like it – when are the majority of the american people who think that they voted for an american loving president realize that he is anything but the man he pretended to be!!!!!!!!!!! folks, we are in BIG trouble and we need to get this group of anti-american senators, congressmen and elected slimballs OUT--------

    May 29, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  18. Opkode

    "I would hope that a wise White man, with the richness of his experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina female who hasn't lived that life,"

    May 29, 2009 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  19. annie for Palin

    He should know between all of his own ignorant remarks, all of bidens ignorant remarks they really need one more to add to their list to make really ignorant remarks.

    May 29, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  20. Earl Walker

    There are definitely more parallels between Limbaugh and Duke than Sotomayor and Duke.

    May 29, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  21. Simmy

    President Obama should have stuck by her statement and the intent of her words.....He should not have given in to the lunacy of Gingrich, Limbaugh, and nutty Tancredo (Spelling) They will continue to stir flames.....The administration can't put them all out.....Some things are better left unsaid.......The president should continue to stay on the high road.....Let them continue to go down the road to lodebar......They're stewing in their own juices....Let them finish cooking until they're real done.....Lol....

    May 29, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  22. Bibian Green

    She will be confirmed. Poor choice of words but far from being racist. We all make mistakes so leave the woman alone please. Many of you are jealousy simply because of what she has achieved.

    May 29, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  23. JediMasterMatt

    The same Republican party that is ready to throw her under the bus because of one comment forgets that their whole party platform is based on hate, fear and discrimination.

    May 29, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  24. Willy Brown

    If she was a republican she would not even be next to Mr. Change.

    May 29, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  25. B. Brown

    GOP is still grasping for straws and this is just another futile attempt that will fail. When will the GOP and its cult figure out that division is not what America is seeking at this point in time. Ms. Sotomayer will be an excellent Supreme Court Judge.

    May 29, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
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