July 14th, 2009
10:36 AM ET
5 years ago

Sotomayor: word choice bad in 'wise Latina' remark

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Given the chance to explain her "wise Latina" remark, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said Tuesday her word choice was bad.

"I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt: I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging," Sotomayor said on the second day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her nomination by President Barack Obama to be the first Hispanic justice on the the nation's highest court.

Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, gave Sotomayor the opportunity to comment on criticism over her past statements that she hoped "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."

"No words I have ever spoken for written have received so much attention," Sotomayor said of the statement from past speeches to law students, particularly Hispanic students.

"I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system, because different life experiences and backgrounds always do," she said. "I don't think that there is a quarrel with that in our society."

Under later questioning from Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, Sotomayor conceded her wording was poor in trying to express a similar opinion as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - the first woman on the nation's highest court - that "both men and women were equally capable of being wise and fair judges."

Sotomayor said she knew that O'Connor wasn't commenting on the ability of men or women to make wiser decisions. Judges disagree all the time, she said, but that doesn't mean that one is necessarily wiser than another.

"I was trying to play on her words," she said. "My play fell flat. It was bad."


Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Bad word choice. There! She said it. Now can we move on Sen. Sessions? He seems to be the only one that's flipping head over heels about the remark.

    July 14, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. phoenix86

    So today she took back her statements that she repeated multiple times over a 10 year period.

    Amazing how gullible and naive dems are. Read her speech, she was not "trying to play on her words". She could be tried for perjury just for her testimony today. Amazing but typical for an Obamaphite.

    July 14, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  3. George the Democrat Obama fanatic.

    As a minority I understand exactly what she meant.
    So many times the life experiences of minorities have been minimized...she was just trying to make up for that.

    July 14, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. George the Democrat Obama fanatic.

    ------------------------–

    As a minority I understand exactly what she meant.
    So many times the life experiences of minorities have been minimized...she was just trying to make up for that.

    July 14, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. FLP

    And she's a bad choice for supreme court. When she made the wise Latina woman comment, that's exactly how she felt and she still feels that way, now she has to make excuses for stating her true feelings. And who's buying her baloney filled coached excuse she is giving. Those words prove she is biased in her thinking and that it will and has spilled over to her rulings.

    July 14, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. UNHAPPY DEM

    Typical politician, twisting the truth around to suit their needs. She sure is not a wise person.

    July 14, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. Phil

    Don't you love how people change their tunes. My wife is Latina and doesn't trust this lady.

    July 14, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. elliott

    She's lame...we can do MUCH better...

    July 14, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. Kevin B

    Most thinking americans were always aware the "wise latina" remark was clearly taken out of context to stoke the narrow minded and willfully ignorant republicans to come out in force against this nominee.

    Once again the republican forces of negativity has been out-flanked. The GOP makes it too easy to for team Obama. When will these Do-Do headed rebulicans learn?

    July 14, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. Yossi Gestetner

    I only wonder why she made that choise of words seven eight times...

    July 14, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  11. mb

    Come on! If this is all Leahy is concerned about, Sotomayor must be a near perfect candidate.

    July 14, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. gigantosapiens

    Life experiences? Gee! Hitler and Stalin had a lot of them. So does Castro. Does that make them a better judge? How about common sense, a nack for seeking truth& justice, intelligence, the ability to learn from OTHERS life experiences, honesty.....These are the things that make a good judge. Did i forget integrity? Sotomayor is backpedaling on her 17 year record of bias and prejudice.

    July 14, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  13. Penny - Canada

    It really annoys me that commentators on Sotomayor's highly quoted "wise Latina" statement rarely include, and never analyze, that critical first, self-referential, part of the statement, "I hope". It changes the meaning significantly. She is saying she "hopes", but leaves room for doubt. This is aspirational, with a note of deprecation. And it brings that statement much closer to what she is say;ing in the hearings today.

    In addition, there seems to be a culture gap over the use of the word "empathy". It seems to me that many are using this word merely as a synonym for "sympathy", which originally empathy was not. It sounds to me, from what Judge Sotomayor is saying, that she is using it in a professional sense, the way psychoanalysts would use it, as a TOOL to feel out how others and herself are feeling, in order to use that information to analyze and evaluate so that she is able identify her personal biases, and therefore to lay aside her biases from consideration in judgement. In this sense, "empathy" is a valuable skill. To use it on oneself takes a great deal of calm and wisdom.

    So how about some more in depth analysis?

    July 14, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  14. turn Texas blue

    Just like the filthy rich dont have a clue or care about those in the lower or middle class income bracket.They remind me of the Russians before the revolution.The russians went to far in the other extreme though.

    July 14, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    @ phoenix86, who said "So today she took back her statements that she repeated multiple times over a 10 year period."

    If that were true, then please explain why we've been forcefed ONLY ONE out-of-context quote from ONLY ONE speach for the past 3-4 months.

    July 14, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    You guys got nothin', GOPers. Repeat after me: "Congratulations Justice Sotomayor."

    July 14, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |