June 3rd, 2009
12:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Gingrich: I shouldn't have called Sotomayor 'racist'

Gingrich tweeted last week that Sotomayor is a 'latina woman racist.'
Gingrich tweeted last week that Sotomayor is a 'latina woman racist.'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A week after sparking a political firestorm with a line on Twitter, Newt Gingrich is looking to cool the controversy in print.

Last week, the former House Speaker alluded to a line in a 2001 speech by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in which President Obama's Supreme Court pick said she hoped that a "wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Gingrich tweeted: "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.' new racism is no better than old racism" and "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

(Update: Sen. Jeff Sesssions Reaction)

The comments illuminated a strategy divide in GOP ranks over the Supreme Court fight, with high-profile faces like Gingrich and conservative host Rush Limbaugh highlighting what they called Sotomayor's racially divisive remarks, and leaders like National Republican Senatorial Committee John Cornyn urging the party to back away from that line of attack.

On Wednesday, Gingrich penned a lengthy op-ed in conservative Human Events that seemed to back away from his initial reaction.

"Shortly after President Obama nominated her to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, I read Judge Sonia Sotomayor's now famous words: '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,'" he wrote.

"My initial reaction was strong and direct - perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice.

"With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted)."

President Obama and White House aides said Sotomayor's choice of words was a poor one, but immediately fought back against critics who branded the judge racist.

"I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they've decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said last Wednesday.

UPDATE: Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Gingrich's decision to revisit his original statements. "I'm very glad he backed off," he told Dana Bash Wednesday, in a CNN exclusive. "I think that's unusual, that commentators do that, and I think it was very good that he did. I think that will... help us. I think that will help us have a real good discussion about the serious issues that the nations faces and the court faces."


Filed under: Newt Gingrich • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. Brandon

    What he wanted to say was sexist. Considering his treatment of women, specifically all the ones he has married and the mother of his children, Newt is the last person to call other names.

    June 3, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  2. I can see Canada from my house!

    Well, well, well.....Newt the bomb-thrower may actually be getting wise in his old age. I seem to recall some years ago that Speaker Gingrich actually sent a list of words one should use when describing their opponents, which icluded "sick", " pathetic" and " traitorous" , to name just a few. Maybe he's actually realising there is limited value in talking like this, but its far more likely he saw his potential presidential stock take a nose-dive among the demographics he desperately needs to win a general election. Regardless of the motivation, I applaud him for owning up to his mistake.

    June 3, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  3. Hotdog

    Newt is a lier. He meant exactly what he said. Now that he see what he said did not go over well in the court of public opinion he wants to take it back. He is trying so hard to be a leading GOP candidate for the 2012 presidental election.

    June 3, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  4. Roderick Knight

    Too late newt....we now have it on record , so any plans you have for 2012 just went bye bye...no latino or any minority for that matter will ever vote for you so have a nice retirement ..adulterer.

    June 3, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  5. WI Vet

    So let see, Sotomayor said something several years ago unacceptable to others now but alright in the whole of a 4000 plus words speech . Gingrich says something unacceptable now by most of the country but is ok in his mind.

    If your confused so am I. Good rule to follow & note.
    "2 ears 1mouth, listen twice as much as you speak and your do much better in Life"

    June 3, 2009 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. The Party of NO is only “pro-life” to save a zygote now, so it can then kill the “babies” 18 years later as soldiers in an elective religious war.

    Too late now you old white racist, your true "colors" were exposed for all to see.

    June 3, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. watching

    Sotomayer is pulling back from a line in a public speech.
    "I used a poor choice of words" acceptable

    gingrich made a personal attack "she is a racist"
    Gingrich needs to apologize directly to Sotomayer, not yet acceptable.

    June 3, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  8. Joanna

    Sotomayor's words were taken way out of context, they critics neglected to read the WHOLE statement. Than they didn't look at her record, which actually sided against many racism claims about 87% of the time. I can respect anyone who can admit they were wrong, thanks Gingrich.

    June 3, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  9. scott winter haven

    Newt for President-2012.

    June 3, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  10. JDH

    Gingrich did what so many right-wing nut jobs do, he spoke without thinking. Lushbaugh does it, Cheney does it. Gingrich is no different. What Sotomayor said was not racist. She simply said her perspective might be a fresh approach to the Court.

    It's probably impossible for us to expect the attack dogs to think before they bark/bite.

    June 3, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  11. John Long

    Hmmm .... so, Newt acknowledges that "shoot from the lip" comments can be either awkward, as in Judge Sotomayor's case, or outright wrong and inappropriate, as in Gingrich's case. And this means we have any NEW reason to give this lying, corrupt, self-interested, ex-political-hack any credibility?

    Newt just dug his own grave even deeper. And it looks as if he wants to put the GOP in there with him.

    June 3, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  12. barking republican ankle biters

    Let the dead bury the dead.

    June 3, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  13. Eric

    He's only sorry he got caught, but he's not really apologetic for thinking and saying what he did. And the Republicans' sudden interest in racism is laughable considering their record.

    June 3, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  14. Al Ware (Atlanta, GA)

    What makes Newt Gingrich relevant? The answer is nothing! He's irrelevant. He controversial, which is why the media focuses in on comments made by him and other nut cases such as Rush Limbaugh. I for one am getting tired of the news media flaming controversy by providing those morons with a voice. We as a people should demand the news media be more responsible with their reporting and held accountable when the sensationalize stupidity. Does Newt even have a full-time job, if so, why doesn't he stick to that?

    June 3, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  15. Abraham Lincoln

    What happened to the Republican party...?

    We had 8 years of gunboat and cowboy mentality ruining our image around the world....

    Now we've had about 5 months of Republicans ruining our image here in America....

    I truly think it's our mentality of having a cold heart and a mean spirit that has us obsessively disliked in almost every corner of the globe....

    Republicans need to back off the white supremacy platform, America is changing, white people are no longer the majority, we need to be more inclusive of Non-White People......

    June 3, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  16. chris (hartford, ct)

    So Newt is basically saying that, instead of clearly thinking an issue through and speaking after he understood the complexity of the subject, Gringrich immediately started posting flames on Twitter. Looks like the GOP has joined the 21st century after all!

    June 3, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  17. Jim

    White man with loose lips and hole in head should close them both...

    June 3, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. rds

    translation=i thought I had the 'base' behind me but when I turned around there were on 12 people left.

    June 3, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  19. Brad

    So in other words, it's no longer politically convenient to oppose her nomination with such sentiments... interesting.

    June 3, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  20. Al Ware (Atlanta, GA)

    What makes Newt Gingrich relevant? The answer is nothing! He's irrelevant. He controversial, which is why the media focuses in on comments made by him and other nut cases such as Rush Limbaugh. I for one am getting tired of the news media flaming controversy by providing those morons with a voice. We as a people should demand the news media be more responsible with their reporting and held accountable when they sensationalize stupidity. Does Newt even have a full-time job, if so, why doesn't he stick to that?

    June 3, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  21. Smarty

    No one is interested in Tewt anyway. He's just another 300 pound blowhard right wing nut case trying to get attention. Sotomayor has better job prospects that the rich gringo.

    June 3, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  22. bendo

    lizard newt: too late.... the damange has already been done, Hispanics/Latinos are going to vote over whelming for the Dems in 2010 and 2012. Because of all the rants by by gop operatives, your party has lost the Hispantic/Latino vote for generations...THANKS! from a lifelong Dem! It will only be a matter of time when libs over take the SC after just one of the two neo-cons are gone, scalia or thomas and O is packing the appellant courts with libs....your worst nightmare come true!!!

    June 3, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  23. AJ

    Newt Gingrinch, you are the Rev. Al Sharpton of the Republican Party. Congrats!!

    June 3, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  24. Dallas Independent - thank goodness

    Why apologize for speaking what is truthful? The woman is a reverse racist, no ifs, ands or buts about it. She's a loud-mouthed hispanic woman too big for her britches! The does not have the appropriate, shall we say personality, to sit on the SCOTUS. I can just see her next to Ruth!

    June 3, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  25. Tony Justin

    Newt Gingrich is a hateful, angry and spiteful man. He thinks that depreciating women is his calling in life. He was particularly horrible to his first wife – who he told he wanted to divorce when she was in the hospital with cancer. What a terrible family man. What a terrible symbol for th GOP.

    June 3, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
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