June 3rd, 2009
12:27 PM ET
11 years ago

Sotomayor hits Hill again as GOP race rhetoric cools

Judge Sonia Sotomayor continued making the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor continued making the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Judge Sonia Sotomayor continued making the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday, meeting several additional U.S. senators who will help decide whether she becomes the country's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

At the same time, one leading Republican backed away from earlier heated criticism of Sotomayor in which he labeled her a racist. The shift appeared to reflect an ongoing debate within the GOP on how best to critique Sotomayor without alienating women or Hispanic voters.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he initially reacted too strongly after reading a 2001 speech by Sotomayor in which she said she "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."

Gingrich wrote last week in the on-line forum Twitter that Sotomayor's remarks were racist and that she should therefore be forced to withdraw as President Barack Obama's nominee.

"New racism is no better than old racism," Gingrich wrote. "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

On Wednesday, however, Gingrich released a lengthy op-ed in that seemed to back away from his initial reaction.

"My initial reaction was strong and direct - perhaps too strong and too direct," Gingrich wrote in the conservative publication Human Events.

"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."

Gingrich added that "the word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."

Gingrich's change in sentiment was immediately praised by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I'm very glad he backed off," Sessions told CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

"I think that will help us have a real good discussion about the serious issues that the nation faces and the court faces."

Sessions added that he has "been troubled as I looked at her record as to whether or not she's an activist ... (but) I just haven't felt that it's appropriate to make those kind of strong statements about her."

Other leading conservatives have also reacted harshly to Sotomayor's record. Popular radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh labeled her a "reverse racist," and former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo asserted that her association with the Hispanic group La Raza was the equivalent of a membership in the Ku Klux Klan.

Some political analysts have warned that the Republicans are risking putting themselves on trial in front of Latino-Americans.

"If they line up uniformly in hostility against the first Hispanic woman (nominated) to the court, they risk paying a terrible price with the biggest and fastest-growing minority in this country," CNN political analyst David Gergen said.

On Tuesday, leading Senate Democrats tried quell the controversy over Sotomayor's Latina remarks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said after meeting with Sotomayor that the judge told her the controversial remarks were a "poor choice of words."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Sotomayor told him that "of course one's life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely ... as a judge you follow the law. There's not one law for one race or another. There's not one law for one color or another. There's not one law for rich, a different one for poor. There's only one law."

Leahy also ripped Sotomayor's critics for launching "the most vicious (attacks) I've ever seen."

He said that the Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings would not begin until afterJune, but "with the attacks that have been going on against her, I believe it'd be irresponsible to leave her hanging out there."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was non-committal when asked about a timetable, saying only that "we're going to do this as quickly as we can (but) won't set any arbitrary deadlines."

Obama has called for his nominee to be confirmed before the start of the next Supreme Court term in October.

Sotomayor is slated to spend her second day on Capitol Hill meeting with 10 additional senators.

She is scheduled to meet with, among others, Sens. Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire; Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

She also is expected to meet with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has called on her to apologize for her Latina comment. Graham recently called the comment "troubling and inappropriate."

"She's going to have to convince me that if I found myself in court against someone she had a lot of empathy for, that I'd get a fair shake," Graham said. "If she can't, I won't vote for her."

–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report


Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. Chad, Wisco

    Nice job CNN with a nice unbiased title. She is going to end up being whatever the media tells us she is. Its sad but its true.

    June 3, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. Once You Vote Black

    Newt back off. I knew he could not Keep It Up. That is why they call it the GOP. Funny how they make comments with such conviction and then back away like "It was just a thought". You guys will never make it back to power if you cannot even think before you speak.

    It's not rhetoric CNN, when her own words paint her as such.
    Then why did Newt back off? Either he was right before or he is right now. Either way he was at one point wrong and this will bit him when he runs for office. What Newt needs is a good teleprompter.

    June 3, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. Alfred E. Neumann

    Race and gender have nothing to do with this nomination.

    Review her record. Too much time has been spoiled listening to the rants of talk show conservatives using the occasion to make a dollar.

    This woman deserves to have her record reviewed. When done it will show that she is less competent than Clarence Thomas.

    One only has to examine the New Have, Conn. fire exam decision to know that she is truly weak on the law. If it matters, many of her decisions have been overturned by the Supreme Court.

    June 3, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. W. Art

    I posted a comment earlier and it was not posted, so I'll try again.

    I'm sure Newt has said worse things behind closed doors. To MICHIGANTRUTH who posted that Pres. Obama and the Dems have divided this country, ("Obama and the Dems have succeeded in dividing us into identity interest groups. "a house divided") anyone?
    Well think again. This country was long divided before Pres. Obama ever came on the scene.

    If you were honest with yourself, you could and would have seen and/or known that. But obviously you are showing bias yourself, but gonna speak out about someone else.

    I guess Newt recognize a part of himself in her and that's why he called her a "racist".

    June 3, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  5. Mr Manhattan

    Obama is a terrorist. No wait a minute that wont work. Obama is a socialist. No wait a minute that wont work. Obama is a fascist. No wait a minute that wont work. Nancy Pelosi should step down as House Speaker because she said the same things about the CIA that Newt & the GOP did. No wait a minute that wont work. Sonia Sotomayor is a racist. No wait a minute that wont work..... Satomayor's statement when read in its entirety and not in the abreviated sound byte the GOP & Drugs Windbaugh are infamous at manipulating into whatever right-wing nut job spin they desire, proves she is innocent of any racist charge. She is merely stating that because her EXPERIENCE as a Latin American woman who grew up in poverty gives her a different & more emphatic perspective on certain issues that any white male judge does not. No more no less. The only time that the GOP should open their collective mouth is when they change feet. Cry babies. Its sad, sad.

    June 3, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  6. Once You Vote Black

    stupid, racist comments that Charlie Rangel...

    Rangel was trying to make a point. That White Cops are stone cold killers and that Obama is in danger by NYC PO PO. If you ever left the South you would know that. Newt being your Southern Cousin I can see why you want to defend him, but give it up. Get your party in order and perhaps we will respect your opinion. At this point there is no quarter for the GOP voice.

    June 3, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. Olumadunwa

    Mr. Gingrich will have to learn not to deliberately put the cart before the horse next time. Shooting yourself in the foot can sometimes offer you a second chance to make ammends; but when you continue to throw missiles at a protected target, you will one day shoot yourself in the head without knowing it and that will be the end of story. Moral of the story for Mr. Gingrich: desist from opening that big mouth indiscriminately, use your head to imagine what effect they will have when they make the headlines. Retractions can always be avoided when you allow your brain to control the annoying urge of your mouth.

    June 3, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. Dave, the truth teller

    I think we need to start a NAAWP, Congressional White Caucus, White Entertainment TV, National White College Fund, National Organization of Men, etc. Oops, that would be racist, sexist, homophobic, yada, yada... I'm evil because I'm a white, heterosexual, male who doesn't favor or disfavor a person because of race or gender. I'm evil because I think all crimes are hate crimes and that equal protection under the law is just that. Libs know no shame....

    June 3, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. StopDiscrimination

    "New racism is no better than old racism," Gingrich wrote. "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

    I hate Newt Gingrich with a passion and voted against him in my native Georgia. However, this time he is absolutely correct. The comment by Sotomayor was unmitigated racism and if a white candidate had made such a statement then they would likely be writing their resignation right now. Try switching the words latina and white and switching the words woman and man in Sotomayors statement. NOW do you see the racism?

    "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."

    Racism is racism, if you think it matters which race is targeted then you are engaging in the WORST kind of racism.

    June 3, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  10. Dawn in Pa

    Racism is ugly and uncalled for. Remember wars were fought over things that were misunderstood or taken out of context. I know that people turn their noses up at people who are different.

    Well ladies and gentlemen, let the games begin!

    June 3, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Once You Vote Black

    Newt should not give in. his first remarks were on target. this woman was selected because she was Hispanic…

    It appears Newt does not agree with you. Perhaps he feels that a Hispanic Woman would make a better choice. Perhaps he has backed down because he realizes White Men do make poor judges. You will have to check with him. He flip flops more then a live fish on in a frying pan.

    In fact he may be back on yourside at this point.

    June 3, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. James M. Holmes

    This is what you get when you cut out a quote of 35 words, don't repeat the WHOLE quote and then attack the "out of context" quote...

    You get a bunch of un-informed people outraged about nothing and you see the people doing the attacking, having to backpeddle as more and more people read the ENTIRE quote in it's context...

    Your dirty tricks don't work anymore GOP!

    June 3, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. TO ALL WHO CALL HER RACIST

    Your darn right Newt, you and all whites know nothing, I repeat nothing about racism. For many years this society has been WHITE/BLACK now there is a brown thrown into the mix. UNLES YOU YOURSELVES HAVE EXPRIENCED RACISM KEEP YOUR MOUTHS SHUT. As a triple minority, a woman 1/2 MEXICAN 1/2 PACIFIC ISLANDER BORN IN AMERICAN ALONG WITH THE COLOR OF MY SKIN I KNOW RACISM growing up and still 57 years later. I am educated, a professional in the work force and still get discriminated against. Is there such a thing of reverse racism, absolutely. I myself have been accused of it, I believe if you come to live in America then speak my language which is English. I do speak spanish but the primary language in this country is English first. I have never said forget where you came from but I don't feel that my tax dollars so go toward printing in other languages to suit those races. So to all whites who have accused Judge Sotomayor of being a racist, you don't know a thing about it, nothing, nada!

    June 3, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    ********* CNN wha'ts up? Teleprompter USA IS again having several comments posted and mine are being deleted****************************

    The GOP realizes too late that their vile racist comments, have cost them not only the Latino vote but the vote of most minorities.

    The GOP can not win an election with only the Grumpy Old Punks vote!

    June 3, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. Ben North Carolina

    Everyone is making too big of deal on the so called racist remarks. It should not dominate the conversation on her nomination. The real concern are statements being made that republicas should be carefull not to be harsh toward her, because it will give them a negative image.

    The fact is that she is being nominated for a lifetime apointment. Every member of the senate from both parties has a moral obligation to ask her the tough questions. If the Democrats just rubber stamp her apointment, they are not doing their job and are just as wrong as someone who would reject her nomiation because she is a latino woman. The same goes for any nomination from any president, it is the Senate's job to question the nomination reguardless of which party is in power.

    June 3, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  16. sms29s

    If she doesn't think she can make better judgments than others might, what is the point of her seeking a judgeship to begin with? It's time to stop bowing to while men. I am a 60 year old white woman. Please point out to me any arena other than professional sports where white men are under-represented.

    June 3, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. Al

    Newt Gringrich talks to hear himself talk. For those of you rushing to judgment...first, you would never make a good supreme court justice, and second, read the entire speech. Maybe that's what NG did and had a change of preception. Good for him if that's the case. Now, let's stop wasting time i.e money and get on with the nomination.

    June 3, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    @ Clifford in New York..... "the air head" graduated #2 in her Princeton class......... doubt that an 'airhead' could.

    June 3, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. Time Out !!!

    @Dave, the truth teller June 3rd, 2009 12:59 pm ET **One ? have you are anyone in your Family ever been beat or killed cuz of the color of your skin .....waiting I didn't think so!!Now shut your Lying Racist Sour Puss!!! Do you think it was Racist when Daddy Bush made a statement regardng his Grand kids ....I got some White ones and some Brown Ones instead of saying I have what ever # of Grand Kids ??? EYES ROLLING!!!

    June 3, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. Joe

    I don't know much about this lady except that she is about as ugly as it gets and her picture is always on CNN. That doesn't make for a good combo.

    June 3, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  21. Fair is Fair

    Dave, the truth teller June 3rd, 2009 12:59 pm ET

    I think we need to start a NAAWP, Congressional White Caucus, White Entertainment TV, National White College Fund, National Organization of Men, etc. Oops, that would be racist, sexist, homophobic, yada, yada… I'm evil because I'm a white, heterosexual, male who doesn't favor or disfavor a person because of race or gender. I'm evil because I think all crimes are hate crimes and that equal protection under the law is just that. Libs know no shame….
    ________________________________

    Dave, in all fairness, those organizations you listed were born in times when those groups WERE under-represented and discriminated against.

    June 3, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. Tellitlikeitis

    It's only racist to talk about another race when your white. It's been open season on whitey for over 10 years now and it's about to get worse.

    June 3, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. No Incumbents 2010

    Gingrich is a old-time race-baiter who still didn't apologize for calling Sotomayor a racist. Newt will do anything to pander to the far right to get positioned for the 2012 presidential race. Gingrich hates Latinos like most GOP politicians.

    June 3, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. Treat her like Obama treated Roberts and Scalia

    Was Kennedy being a good guy by going after Clarence Thomas from day one of his nomination while efaming him FROM DAY ONE, was he "careful" in what he said?

    Was Biden being a good white guy when he said that "Thomas was only a justice because he was black"?

    Where was the outrage back then for the gutless Liberals who are not talk show hosts BUT ELECTED OFFICIALS of the party of hypocrites.

    Oops, those remarks are only racist if a white REPUBLICAN uses them against someone that is not white.

    People like you Obamabots like to parse words and ignore the content and INTENT, sorry the pain you are feeling is called the truth and sometimes it hurts.

    The Republicans that actually wil be voting for this "person" have agreed that she deserves a fair process and as part of that fair process her voting record and actual words must be looked into or is that somehow RACIST?

    June 3, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. RH

    New racism is no better than old racism.

    June 3, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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