June 3rd, 2009
12:30 PM ET
6 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. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Newt can't keep his foot out of his mouth. And this guy use to be the Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi is a breath of fresh air compared to this guy. If you openly admit that your words were to strong Newt, of course people are going to attack you. You of all people should know this. Mr. Gingrich is not an elected official and hasn't declared that he's running for office, so he just needs to stay out of the news because all that he is doing is stirring up controversy.

    June 3, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  2. Robert Fredericks

    I see nothing wrong in what Newt stated, he is correct in calling Sonia a racist with her decision making. Obama is making a JOKE out of this term already.

    June 3, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  3. Tatsuo

    Why should Newt retract the statement?

    "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."

    This is good, sound logic. Why throw good logic out the window when it is applied to a minority?
    America has been turned upside down. What was good is now bad and what was bad is now good.

    As a Japanese I cannot figure out what has transpired to make the US this way, but I hope that this nonsense does not infect Japan's political system and society as a whole.

    June 3, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  4. Ray

    Gingrich is an idiot. Anyone that listens to this crook is also a moron. Keep it coming Newt, you are the Republican party. Your future looks like crap........idiot

    June 3, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  5. Melissa

    No kidding. Gingritch should have thought before he opened his mouth. Now he's once against started a fire. Maybe Republicans are capable of learning yet. But I doubt it.

    June 3, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  6. Tom

    I am so tired of hearing these blow-hard politicians and their stupid remarks. When will we get some politicians that are educated and have some common sense to keep their mouths shut about other people. Stick with taking care of the government and stop trying to out-do each other. Can't you work together or you a bunch of tired old men/women that have nothing to do better but open your mouth and let out a bunch of hot air.

    June 3, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  7. Steve C - Atlanta, GA

    It's already out there Newt....you should think before you speak...not one that people are likely to forget...your retraction is simply an admission that you are loud mouth who doesnt' think before he speaks....not a leader! Please go away!!!!

    June 3, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  8. La Chatte

    Aw gee, what's the matter Newt? Bad press make you change your mind?

    June 3, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  9. mark

    I always love it when a Republican, the most racist part that has ever existed in American politics, calls someone ELSE a racist. Newt is from Georgia; he is white and rich; he is a Repubican; his voting record (as will all Republicans), has always been against anything that is helpful to people of color......what a complete hypocrit....although the most embarrassing member of the Republican party is Michael Steele....it is like being a Jewish Nazi.

    June 3, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  10. J. Appleby

    I have never been a supporter of Newt, but I can see his point. It's too bad that we've gotten to the point that we look for anything at all as an excuse to jump all over someone.

    June 3, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  11. Newt...get out of the game....

    If you are going to be a "waffler" like that clown in the White House....just drop out of the political arena.

    June 3, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  12. JPC

    Newt should have thought before he spoke!

    June 3, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  13. Carl

    I totally agree with what Gingrich said.
    If a white man said that you would still hear the screaming.

    June 3, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  14. alvino

    Rush is going to fry Newtie, and kick him out of the party. There is no room for an apologizer in the GOP.

    June 3, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  15. Carolyn

    Newt, probably the best thing you could do would be to keep your mouth shut.

    June 3, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  16. Mike Dallas

    Uh, oh, the real party leader lush the lemming leader, will not be happy about this turn of events by a "spineless RINO".

    Newt will have to submit to being "tea-bagged" repeatedly by lush until the messiah has absolved the lizard of his "sin"...

    Sorry in advance, for THAT visual that is now permanently seared onto your retinas!

    June 3, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  17. L'broke

    Hmmm....

    Don't care.

    How's that?

    June 3, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  18. Aspen Professor

    Perhaps it is time for Newt the adulterer to just go away lest he further damage the Republican Party.

    June 3, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  19. Had It

    Butt out Newt the Loser. We got rid of you once, we DON'T WANT OR RESPECT YOUR LOPSIDED PROPAGANDA.

    The hate-mongering is tearing this country to shreds – people are killing other people. STOP IT.

    June 3, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  20. Junius

    Great! Now go away Grinch!

    June 3, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  21. Grog in Ohio

    So... First Gingrich is led by Limbaugh via the nose, then changes his mind when he gets heat from the other GOP flapping gums. Does he have any original thoughts that he's willing to stick with?

    June 3, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  22. Independent Voter

    a double minded idiot is unstable in all his ways!!

    God Bless President Obama, VP Biden, the First Families and "Bo"

    June 3, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  23. Steve from OH

    Obama said earlier this week that Iran had a right to nuclear power. Today, news emerges that he leaked top-secret information on nuclear facilities and programs here in the US to the public. Coincidence?

    June 3, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  24. chutchin

    Oh...changing your tune, Newtie boy? Good-because you are irrelevant. You hold no public office and when you did, you were morally bankrupt. Just shut up and stay home.

    June 3, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  25. JB

    Funny, no one stopped calling Bush Hitler

    June 3, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
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