July 19th, 2009
07:41 PM ET
5 years ago

Leahy on Sotomayor: 'Stop the racial politics'


WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor should be judged on the merits of her 17-year judicial record and the week of confirmation hearings that just ended rather than on suspicions about her racial allegiances.

“You had one leader of the Republican Party call her the equivalent to the head of the Klu Klux Klan,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Another leader of the Republican Party called her a bigot,” Leahy added, later explaining that he was making reference to comments by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

After Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Ranking Republican on the committee, referred to Sotomayor’s past involvement in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, Leahy again suggested that some Republicans were being unfairly critical of Sotomayor.

“I hope we don’t go back to the day when we used to have African-Americans up for confirmation and say ‘Yes, but you belong to the NAACP so, you know, we’re really suspicious of you,’” Leahy said CNN’s State of the Union.

“C’mon, stop the racial politics,” Leahy added.

Leahy remarks drew an immediate response from Sessions.

“Oh, c’mon, Pat. I’m going to disagree on that,” Sessions said.

“No but that’s the way it comes across . . . It comes across - if you belong to a group that tries to help Hispanics, help them in school, help them in other things, somehow you’re suspicious. The same arguments were used against Thurgood Marshall and others. I think it’s wrong,” Leahy said.

“I want to correct something,” interrupted Sessions. “No Republican leader said she was a bigot. You’ve overstated that. There’s nothing wrong with us asking her about the personal views about positions – legal positions – that she took as the member of an organization. That’s a normal thing to do. I don’t think that was unfair.”

soundoff (301 Responses)
  1. Debby, NJ

    The Repug's are racist, and they know it...the great old men party is over!

    July 19, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Dave C - NJ

    Newt called her a racist, which is about equivalent of calling someone a bigot. But he did withdraw it. Bottom line is the GOP knows she's a decent choice, but are pandering to the Redneck Class.

    July 19, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Eric-30m-PUMA voted McCain

    “C’mon, stop the racial politics"

    I didn't hear you speak up when the leader of your party (Obama) used race time and time again during the campaign. The statements this judge made were very concerning and rightly so deserve criticism. We're supposed to be improving race relations, but the statements made by the judget indicate this country will reverse itself in terms of discrimination. Is that what you want, Leahy? C'mon!

    July 19, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Darryl

    Give me a break, both parties play the race card when it serves them to do so. Both parties are playing politics with this obomination of Sotomayor

    July 19, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. Susan from S Illinois

    I agree with Leahy. After hearing the comments hade by both of my Kentucky Senators...Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning... I will not be voting got either of them in the next election and I strongly suspect that neither of them will be returning to the Senate given the current opinion of them by many citizens of Kentucky. They have both been here too long and its timefor them to leave and be replaced by Senators who actually represent the will of the people in this State.

    July 19, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    When her record includes obviously racially motivated decisions (ie the New Haven firefighter case) it is certainly a valid line of questioning.

    July 19, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. L. Brad Carter

    Regarding this remark by Sen. Jeff Sessions concerning SCOTUS nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, " ,,, “I want to correct something,” interrupted Sessions. “No Republican leader said she was a bigot. You’ve overstated that. " Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current Republican leader, Newt Gingrich, called Judge Sotomayer "a racist." Either Sen. Sessions has a selective memory, or he is dangerously delusional!

    July 19, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. Denise

    Sessions has ties to the KKK, he is the last person to be questioning anybody's ties to a organization.

    July 19, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. Susan from W Kentucky

    I agree with Leahy. After hearing the comments made by both of my Kentucky Senators…Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning… I will not be voting for either of them in the next election and I strongly suspect that neither of them will be returning to the Senate given the current opinion of them by many citizens of Kentucky. They have both been there too long and its time for them to leave and be replaced by Senators who actually represent the will of the people in this State.

    July 19, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. joe

    I am amazed at how uneducated the people who leave comments are. "Obama used race during the campaign" "the republican's are racist" I can go on and on about all the comments that I have read on CNN

    Let me make something clear. 95% of you are clueless thats why the people in power get away with everything.

    July 19, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    To Eric-30m-PUMA voted McCain,
    HRC lost and Obama won – when are the PUMAs going to accept that fact and move on into the future with the rest of us? ;)

    July 19, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. TOM

    Does Sessions really think he has fooled anyone. I am a white Male and do not feel the least bit threatened by 1/9 of the supreme Court. It's guys like Sessions that give us a bad name.

    People who keep bringing up race are usually racists.

    July 19, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  13. Peoples Voice

    Jeff, you and your cohorts have been pounding the racist drum during the whole hearing. What other reason in the world would you have the poor little old firemen testify if you were not.

    For Pete's sake, at least be man enough to admit to what you have been doing.

    July 19, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. pile it on

    maybe if we get really racist, we will get it out of our system

    July 19, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  15. Get Real

    If anyone knows racism and bigotry it is Sessions. Lord Almighty check out some of the statements from this man and then try to figure out why the citizens of Alabama send him back to DC....

    He stated he used to like the KKK until he found out some of the members smoke pot...but then said he was joking

    He said that he thought that the NAACP was unAmerican for forcing civil rights down the throats of people....

    He told a black assistant attorney in Alabama to be careful how he spoke to white people...

    HE'D know for sure....

    July 19, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Sessions is no more than Goober in a suit.

    July 19, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  17. Karine

    This seems to be the new trend by politicans , if you don't agree or fall in line with their party , you are a racist.
    Overused term and it is losing it's meaning.

    July 19, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. southerncousin

    This idiot, no this blooming idiot play racial, sex and all kinds of politics during all of Bush nomination hearings and now has the gall, the unmitigated liberal gall to make such statements. HYPOCRITE. He should go do what Cheney told him to do. Such a stupid, partisan, hypocritical yet typical liberal, It just make me puke.

    July 19, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  19. Larry

    Every time the angry Republicans open their mouths it gives me another reason not to vote for them.

    Ms. Sotomayor conducted herself very well and she will be confirmed.

    The Republican party has fallen apart and the members are revealing themselves for what they really are....lying bigots out for nothing but themselves. And I was always taught it was a government for the people.

    Unfortunately we're going to have to listen to their whiny voices till we can get the rest of them out of office.

    I used to be a Republican, now I'm Democrat. I'll never vote for another Republican. They've shown their colors these past 9 months, when this country was in a state of panic. They're outstanding at pointing the finger....just too stupid and biggoted to come up with any solutions.

    July 19, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  20. Grrr-awful-o

    If I hear one more democrat play the race card I'm going to scream. Give it a break! It's 2009!

    July 19, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. RMG

    Someone PLEASE give me a concrete example of Obama using race during the campaign or now, overtly or subtly versus the many instances of racism and hate used by the likes of the opposition now and then. Palin then...Trihrt, McConnell, etc.

    Also, tell me how white men are not influenced by the race, culture, gender, etc. For anyone to say that personal perspective does not influence our decisions is unrealistic. This woman is bright and ready for the bench but for those in opposition they can accept the change; removal of singular power by one group of persons. We are no longer a white man ruled society, but instead our government is moving toward representing all of us, white, black, brown (in relation to color) you know, such as is evident in most of America. Thank goodness.

    July 19, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. southerncousin

    This unbelievably hypocritical piece of dog puke, should go back and read his racist, bigoted, sexist comments concerning Bush nominees and then apologize to us all for the crap he and the rest of the dope smoking libs have been saying for 40 years and then admit that he should have done (and probably has) what Cheney suggested several years ago. All liberals are slimy, but Leahy and Boxer are among the slimiest, bottom dwellers on earth.

    July 19, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Amanda

    Sotomayor's America is our future. Thank God for that.

    July 19, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. omoregie john

    Micheal Jackson do say how long can live his life on colour ,
    Republicans to this world a better place for all look at your heart first and live for the 21st century and beyound not the days Dogs were more respected as Human beings
    Please go on confirmining SOTOMAYOR
    If men were God ?

    July 19, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. mh

    Leahy has got to be one of the biggest hypocrites in government. We are an idiot people that allow someone like him to have a position of power over us.

    July 19, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
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