May 29th, 2009
06:04 PM ET
5 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. Hawaii gal

    Am I the ony one that is sick of hearing what Rush Limbaugh thinks? Who cares what this big ,fat , racist, drug addict who has never held any kind of public office believes?? He knows nothing, other than how to pop pills and spew hate.

    May 29, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  2. Ambrose Smith, Borrego Springs, California

    Is this the best the GOP can come up with? Maybe they should hold their powder until something truly controversial comes along.

    This is making them look bad. Fine with me.

    May 29, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  3. No To Obama

    Another Racist in the Obama Administration

    May 29, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. Bonnie

    What about some people who say racist, derogatory, things, all day long, behind closed doors, and when caught saying these things, it's oops, I am soo sorry, that's not what I meant, my words were taken out of context, all spineless cowards, you want to get real, bring it.

    May 29, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  5. Look out for the nearest bus Sonia

    Arithmetic, do the math genius.

    Even YOUR president (lower case) knows that this was a dumb thing to say and he us trying to put out the uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh fire.

    Look in the mirror and ask yourself would people like "you" be saying "look at their judicial record" if this was a white male saying this about Latina woman?

    While your there lying to yourself, ask this, if a white politician said about his black Grandmother they "are a typical black person" would they BE ANYWHERE near the WH?

    Don't bother, you are NOT in my league as I have been reading your inane postings for far too long,

    One and done Barry,

    May 29, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  6. JON

    SO SLM what is it like being Glen Becks brother? This right wing side of the GOP is so full of hate and BS that it's hard to keep track of the lies and misinformation they give out.

    May 29, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  7. David in West Virginia

    There was nothing wrong with her comments. It was right on!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 29, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  8. Chuck

    Mr. Obama, her comment is being interpreted correctly. White males are concerned about her bias against them because her own words reveal bias and her decision to deny promotion of white male firefighters that scored highest on a merit exam soley because of their gender and race.

    May 29, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  9. Reality Check

    @ ib – LOL wake up and smell the roses. When you're too stupid to use cliches, it's time to shut-up.

    May 29, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. ShayHay

    I actually think what she said was just fine. It wasn't racist at all when taken in the context of the speech she was giving.

    May 29, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  11. Loup Garou 782

    @ Arithmetic is liberal: Mirabile dictu. Arithmetic is not liberal, arithmetic has an answerand there is only one correct answer. Check it out if you are not ultra stupid. Try adding $5.00+ $5.00 = Liberal answer?
    As to Sotomayor, I'll take my chances with David Duke, you can have obama.

    May 29, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  12. S Callahan

    What wouuld it be called if a middle class white woman made the ranks and then said 'she felt she could make a better decison than a rich white man because she lived closer to human events that required the courts attention'. That is how I see this...she was speaking from her enviroment and experience of the population she lived amongst...and it's well known the poor spend more time in the courts than the rich. I don't see this as a real issue....at least not one to hang on.

    May 29, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  13. Rick

    Far worse comments made by Republicans ( NUTS ) I guess that makes it ok for Sotomayer to say this and still go to the Supreme Court.
    I think not.

    May 29, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    do't you noticed that non-elected people like oxylimbo and neutered gongrich are the only ones criticizing sotomayer,.Plain and simple they -republicans are male-chauvinists,anti-immigrants,prefer Stafford wives like Laura Bush,Lynn Chenney,walking like bunch of robots.

    May 29, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  15. John

    GWB regularly murdered the English language, in context and content.

    Yet not a peep in protest from the wingnut right.

    Big surprise.

    May 29, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  16. skyhawkdriver

    So the annointed one is already making excuses for his racist socialist "latina" nominee??..and I'm supposed to be suprised??..perhaps "madam latina" needs to go back to the south bronx where perhaps her views would work better..the party of yes we can is rapidly becoming the party of wow we screwed up again..the dimwitocrats have all the power and the best they can do is buy chrysler???

    May 29, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  17. bob

    Perhaps if the media would cover the context in which the statement was made we could make up our own minds about the comment. Instead we get one sentence and no context.

    May 29, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  18. Michael

    This is truly terrible. I'd much rather have a neutral, impartial, objective justice like Samuel Alito, who was a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group of alumni who were opposed to the admission of women and minorities - and especially minority women!

    And it's appalling that she didn't overturn a couple of decades of precedent in order to rule in favor of Ricci in New Haven. I want a judge who will respect the law and avoid judicial activism, except in those cases where I don't respect the law and want judges to overturn it.

    May 29, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  19. Pat, CA

    Bush Defends Clinton's Record on Genocide in Rwanda
    ________________

    Bush and Clinton know how to respect the office of the president — Obama does NOT! But, then, Obama doesn't respect ANYTHING other than his own ego!

    May 29, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  20. Rick

    Hey, arithmetic is liberal; you need to find a thesaurus–or are you too "stupid" to know what that is?

    Hey, Wilby, "I can think of far worse comments made by Republicans." So that makes it OK?

    May 29, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  21. elana

    Is the choice of these few words a real issue????? Let us not forget: George W. Bush saying that Saadam didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and even the Congress believed him!!!! NOW both BUSH and CHENEY are both talking and seem to be proud of the fact they used waterboarding!!

    May 29, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  22. jayjayaye Utah

    Am I being a racist if I point out that there are more African-American stars in the NBA than there are Oriental-Americans? I think not. To my way of thinking, all I am doing is stating a simple fact. Thus, has anyone considered the possibility that Judge Sotomayor's statement is simply the truth?

    May 29, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  23. Dennis

    I've never in my life seen so many idiots in the republican party. It is real clear that they have chosen the pill jock Rush as their leader and they are going to find out in the end the big mistake they have made. But that's OK if they want to bury the party they are in we don't need it anyway. So you republicans listen to your drug addict leader and keep pumping the pills his way. It's just a mater of time before the law has him back in jail and he won't be getting off with a slap on the wrist this time. Then what are you going to be left with, the likes od Dick "Head" Cheney what a loser he is. It won't be long before he is behind bars too. Obama made a good choice and you just can't stand the idea that she is smarter than the whole bunch of you idiots. Keep digging your hole and we will keep covering you under.

    May 29, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  24. Pragmatic

    When did Hispanic become a "race?" – its like being Italian or Irish – a cultural heritage... as for Rush comparing her comment to Duke, it shows the big guy is quickly becoming totally irrational ... on drugs again or should be.

    Firefighters? The lower court decided and the three – count them – one -two – three judges agreed based on The Law as it was written – not legislating from the bench ... all the conservatives want the letter of the law enforced until they don't .... you mean some republican had empathy for these white guys – or is it only white guys?

    May 29, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. Joe

    How would a black man or Oriental woman's experiences rate to this judge? What exactly is "richness of experiences? who decides what is a better conclusion?
    Pretty slippery slope, but she'll get a pass.
    Legislating from the bench with racist beliefs, just the pick I would expect from Obama.
    Beware clear thinkers the road ahead is grim

    May 29, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
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