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. Randall in Torrance - Desert Storm Veteran - Heaven and Earth Against Palin and Limbaugh

    Typical RepubliCAN'TS. Always sending out school safety boy road guards to keep America in the Dark Ages. Sotomayor is not pure white so they want to deny her equal opportunity. Viva la Revolucion. Obam-Biden 2012!!!!

    July 19, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. csr

    Senator Leahy forgets that Republicans have nominated a Hispanic for the Supreme Court and that The Democrats Torpedoed the nomination by threatening a filibuster over "ideas" the nominee had that could make his decisions not within the scope of the law (sound familiar).

    July 19, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  3. mike,texas

    The incredible,the incredible ,shrinking republican par-ty.

    July 19, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  4. yuri

    We concur with Leahy. No remark, regardless of the circumstance or context, should become defensible, if there is a racial epithet attached to it like a virus. The wise Latino wisecrack by Sotomayor is a case in point.

    July 19, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  5. Kevin from Washington

    Sessions' complaint is without merit and he knows it.

    He knows for example that Justice Souter, the man (and G.W. bush appointee) who Sotomeyer is being vetted to replace, supports the Second Circuit panel decision on Ricci v. DeStefano.

    He also knows that the decision was based on a well established test stemming from a 1999 Second Circuit case involving a Nassau County police entrance exam.

    He knows that the plaintiffs were predominately white.

    And he knows that Sotomeyer was only one of three judges on the Second Circuit panel, the other two were white, and that it was a unanimous decision by the panel to support the original district court's decision. It is frankly impossible that Sotomeyer's Hispanic background could have influenced the decision in this case.

    Unfortunately he also knows that this has been made into a "conservative talking point" and that his controversial arguments are going to be played out in the media (like CNN) where he can prey on the general public's ignorance about the Ricci case and score some political points for the Rednecklican party.

    July 19, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  6. mike

    I'm just a typical white person, as obama would say, and I think both parties should stop screwing around and get back to work. I don't care if you have a D or an R after your name, but if you are an Incumbent, you are out.

    July 19, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  7. JD

    This is just so much liberal whining. Whenever a Liberal has an objection to a conservative, their nattering is deemed "Asking the hard questions." But when the tables are turn, the liberals start wailing that they're being "picked on" by the "unfair Republicans."

    Sorry folks, this is politics. Can't take the heat? Get out of the kitchen.

    And yes, I believe a racist has no place being on the Supreme Court of the United States. And yes, when someone deems their race and gender to be naturally superior to that of another, then they are indeed racist and sexist. And there's absolutely NO room for that kind of bias in our nation's highest courts. PERIOD.

    July 19, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  8. Steve (the real one)

    I just read an older CNN ticker entitled:
    Jackson: Black leaders want to engage more with Obama
    I guess Leahy's call doesn't apply to Jesse Jackson, eh?
    Maybe Jesse Jackson didn't get the Leahy memo!
    Or are racially motivated democrats exempt? Something to think about!

    July 19, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  9. KirksNoseHair

    Yeah, I'm pretty much disgusted with just about everything coming out of the Republicans these days....and they wonder why they've got the problems that have in their party.....I just think it's people starting to wake up, frankly.

    July 19, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  10. Gary

    She said that a latino woman is better prepared to make decisions than a white male.

    This is a racist statement. Don't kid yourselfs folks. White people should hold others to the same standards that we hold ourselves.

    Racism isn't good, even when the offender is latino.

    July 19, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  11. Linda

    I'm so sick of hearing about Affimative Action. Tell me, where is it written that if a minority and a caucasian compete for the same job caucasians are ALWAYS more qualified? Where is it written that white people are more intelligent?

    July 19, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  12. Davonroe

    "You want to talk racism? The black community, which is by far Democrat, perpetuated the largest, single episode of racism by electing Obama to the Presidency just because he's black? Go back under your rock Leahy."

    Jack, the black community has been solidly Democratic for decades. If Barack Obama received a higher percentage of the black vote than past Democrats, those additional blacks were either first time voters, or, they came from the few black Republicans that are left.
    The Black community is solidly Democrat not because of black candidates, but because they saw the GOP welcome disgruntled southern whites with open arms after LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in 1964 and 1965. Blacks have certainly voted for white candidates when that was the only choice. Where is the racism?

    July 19, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  13. Hugo

    I think Obama's election has meant the end to the kit glove treatment that many blacks have enjoyed in our society for the past decade or so. Time for blacks to put up or shut up. I believe mainstream White America has grown tired of Jesse, Al and the NAACP dog and pony shows.

    July 19, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  14. bob

    Boo Hoo I bet the Dems didn't attack Clarence Thomas did they. All candidates for this job go through this.It is part of the right of passage.

    July 19, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  15. freeman

    I find it fascinating that the people that are calling Judge Sotomayer a racist are themselves racist. People that voted for John McCain and that racist Palin only because they did not want a Black man as president. You hypocrites are unbelievable!

    July 19, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  16. Cry me A River GOP

    Danny J,

    I suggest you look up the word "Hispanic" before you blast democrats and jews- Jusice Benjamin Cardozo was Sephardi Jew and Portugese- he was NOT Hispanic in contemp. terms- as Portugese is not considered hispanic... Also I'm starting to believe that the same five people (on both sides democratic and republican) are writing the bulk of these they are starting to sound alike (the comments)

    July 19, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  17. James from Hershey

    Hello Nevada,
    I would hope that anyone who has led a life filled with a multitude of experiences (rich) would, more often than not, make better decisions than someone who has not. The problem is not that she believes that a Latina woman will make better decisions than a white man, but that she cannot paint an entire group with one brush. There are many white males that never go outside their comfort zone to learn about others, but I suspect the same can be said for some Latina women. We all need to learn more about our differences and our similarities.

    July 19, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. Mike in Tejas

    You can't be racist if you are a member of a minority. After all, we are victims. Democrats can't be racist. They are the only good people. We all know that the Repubs are the party of the white devil. They have gotten rich off the backs of the minorities. It's time for them to pay. Raise their taxes to pay for my health care. I need to get my ailing mother across the border so she can get medical treatment she can't get in Mexico. Ha Ha and now you whities are going to have to pay for it! Go Obama. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

    July 19, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. TCM

    CNN – perhaps the article should read:

    Leahy TO Sotomayor : Stop The Racial Politics...

    Instead of;

    Leahy on Sotomayor: Stop The Racial Politics....

    Typical liberal behavior; when one of their own commits an unfavorable act...it's overlooked, or biasly justified with some warped sense of reasoning....She made nice for the cameras and the congressmen; period. She's a radical, a liberal and a poor judge.

    July 19, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  20. T Mckinley

    What? You've got to be kidding? White men from the Republican party have been bashing hispanics? Who would have ever thought such a thing?

    By the way, who is Pat Buchanan? What political party does he belong to? He surely couldn't be a Republican, could he?

    July 19, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  21. JOHN

    This is not racist what so ever but ms. sotomayor is not qualified to be on the Supreme Court if you listened to the hearings she seemed like she changed her mind constantly about things she has said and quite frankly she doesn't appear to want to adhere to the constitution moreover she seemed to want to make laws instead of rule on the laws in place.

    July 19, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  22. dwighthuth

    If the Republicans have to use raced based attacks then what does that say about the Republican Leadership? That they really don't have any leadership and have to resort to insults and degrading attacks to try and strip a person of their individuality. The GOP should realize that the days of the Grand Old Party is over with. This is 2009 and the values associated with the Grand Old Party can longer keep pace with the reality of the modern world and that reality is that the internet and communication is now at the center of the world where old world values and politics are no longer needed. This is how progress works.

    July 19, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  23. emmie

    CNN – Take a poll of how many women and people of color in the US found the GOP's handling of the Soto hearings racial, sexist, and generally offensive. That would be a massive amount of people.

    July 19, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  24. indy

    Why is it racist to question her beliefs and actions while a memeber of a particular group? Why is discussion such a bad thing now. I believe most of the Republicans have conceded she will be elected, so where's the problem? If they disagree with her beliefs or opinions, they are entitled to that. Isn't that the reason we hold elections? Wasn't one of the complaint about the last administration that there was no dissent, no opposing opinion? I guess the lesson is it's okay to be like that as long as it's your opinion.

    July 19, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  25. Poker_Person

    Racial politics played a key roll in Obama gaining the democratic nomination and then the presidency. It also helps explain why most people in power, democrats and republicans, will not call this guy out on his radical behavior. We all suffer when race is used to sway our decisions.

    July 19, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
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