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. Gingrich is looking to cool the controversy in print

    hey dummy, you shouldn't have, we know you have no class, but how about surpirsing us and appologize to her in person, we might actually think you showed some class once

    June 3, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  2. Mike in SA

    Does this mean that I, as a white male, now have free reign to no longer have to watch my every word for fear of being considered a racist? If that were actually true (which I highly doubt), that would be a big weight off my shoulders in today's environment. We've been walking on pins and needles for 40+ years.

    June 3, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. Redfish1

    Don't back down Newt. We're depending on you!

    June 3, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  4. Myron

    I'm glad Newt walked his statement back, whatever his motives.

    June 3, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  5. a little sad

    Damage is already done.

    However. most of the damage was done to the RNC, so no great loss.

    The "pro-life" murderers did not help the RNC cause either.

    June 3, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. Obama 2.0

    You are a fool.

    June 3, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  7. smartest person in the room

    Umm a possible presidential candidate?
    Yeah, great this is exactly what the county needs another GOP “leader” who reacts with his gut rather responds with his mind (if he even has any properly functioning neurons left) to a situation…..

    June 3, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. Debra from Georgia

    Newt you are still an idiot

    June 3, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  9. Obama 2.0

    I shouldn't have called you a fool.

    June 3, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  10. Brandon

    Newt Gingrich is a prime example of what the Republican Party DOES NOT NEED right now! I am a registered Democrat and have seen mistake after mistake from a party that has become under a firestorm of controversy. If the republicans want to recover and even have a chance in the future of any major political office then they need a serious reality check! Newt, can it! The last time I checked you do not hold an office, therefore have no say in policy or precedent! The time for change is now, and your time at the podium is UP!

    June 3, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. Lee

    Gee, I wonder if Rush will be the next to backpedal?

    Note to Self - "Don't anger future voting constituency! Doh!"

    June 3, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. shucks

    Whatever. The republicans are so much into political posturing at this point it's a wonder any of them can stand upright. He went with the proverbial instinct of the right. Aren't the republicans tired of the taste of their shoes.

    June 3, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. Clint

    Does this mean Newt is flip-flopping or just reconsidering his "slim to none" chances for 2012. i guess he was just out twitted.

    June 3, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  14. annie s

    This is exactly why we shouldn't even listen to these relics of the Republican party. They are so determined to denounce everything associated with President Obama that it's obvious absolutely no thought goes into their statements.

    June 3, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. Matt

    Flip flopper!

    June 3, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Obama 2.0

    You being in power is more important to you than justice and truth.

    June 3, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. Lois

    Gingrich was right on with his comment. A white nominee would have had to step down.......you cannot deny that.

    June 3, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. Big Ed

    Another example of why Gingrich should call it a career. Be quiet and go home!

    June 3, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. Candy West Virginia

    Go crawl under a rock. Who cares what you think.

    June 3, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  20. Paying Attention in Conn.

    Back track all you like Newt, but we've seen how you (and others like fat-fascist Rush) think...

    June 3, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. Ad West

    Maybe if Gingrich feels that he can take back his statement, then Sotomayor should also be able to take back her original statement.

    June 3, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. RogerD

    I am a democrat and I don't like Newt Gingrich anymore than the rest of us. However he should stick to his original statement. A Black woman being racist is the same as a white man being racist. Its O.K in our society to call a White man cracker, honky etc. But using the N-Word is wrong. Its a double standard and I think Mr.Gingrich should stick by what he said.

    June 3, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  23. Fnord-a-saurus Rex

    Also news today, water is wet and sky is blue.

    Newt is only sorry because he is taking flack for his comments. Does he really feel that way in his heart? Probably not.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. John

    Once again Gingrich demostrates that Republicans will tell you anything you want to hear, as long as it benefits themselves or the Repuclican party. Black is white and up is down, as long as it serves their needs.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. Bob in Pa

    It seems that someone really is pulling strings in washington to get this woman confirmed.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
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