July 20th, 2009
04:54 AM 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.”

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