June 3rd, 2009
12:30 PM ET
13 years ago

Gingrich: I shouldn't have called Sotomayor 'racist'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/06/art.newt.jpg caption="Gingrich tweeted last week that Sotomayor is a 'latina woman racist.'"] WASHINGTON (CNN) - A week after sparking a political firestorm with a line on Twitter, Newt Gingrich is looking to cool the controversy in print.

Last week, the former House Speaker alluded to a line in a 2001 speech by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in which President Obama's Supreme Court pick said she hoped that 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."

Gingrich tweeted: "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.' new racism is no better than old racism" and "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

(Update: Sen. Jeff Sesssions Reaction)

The comments illuminated a strategy divide in GOP ranks over the Supreme Court fight, with high-profile faces like Gingrich and conservative host Rush Limbaugh highlighting what they called Sotomayor's racially divisive remarks, and leaders like National Republican Senatorial Committee John Cornyn urging the party to back away from that line of attack.

On Wednesday, Gingrich penned a lengthy op-ed in conservative Human Events that seemed to back away from his initial reaction.

"Shortly after President Obama nominated her to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, I read Judge Sonia Sotomayor's now famous words: 'I 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,'" he wrote.

"My initial reaction was strong and direct - perhaps too strong and too direct. 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.

"With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted)."

President Obama and White House aides said Sotomayor's choice of words was a poor one, but immediately fought back against critics who branded the judge racist.

"I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they've decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said last Wednesday.

UPDATE: Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Gingrich's decision to revisit his original statements. "I'm very glad he backed off," he told Dana Bash Wednesday, in a CNN exclusive. "I think that's unusual, that commentators do that, and I think it was very good that he did. I think that will... help us. I think that will help us have a real good discussion about the serious issues that the nations faces and the court faces."

Filed under: Newt Gingrich • Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. Bob in Pa

    It seems that someone really is pulling strings in washington to get this woman confirmed.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. tom

    Newt is spinless get on bandwagon celebrity, just stop talking you have nothing intelligent to say.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. Amy

    At least Gingrich retracted his statement. Limbaugh certainly won't.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  4. Jim in San Jose 2

    Backtrack, backtrack, backtrack... Just like always..

    Look, Newt. If you have something meaningful and helpful to say, say it. But if all you can do is attack attack attack, then go away.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |

    The old man is a racist and he got caught. Gingrich would like to run for President and this attack did not work for him. We still know his true feeling as well as others like him.

    June 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  6. MW in MD

    You said what you felt and now you are trying to backtrack? Too late.

    June 3, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  7. redleg

    So when will he tweet the retraction to everyone he sent it to? He should read up on how to undo lashon ha-ra. He should also learn to read whole paragraphs.

    June 3, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. Richard DeCrescenzo

    Gingrich is an idiot. Let him speak. He makes an ass of himself every time.

    June 3, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. RR

    If the racist comments were not rejected so dramaticly by almost all Gingrich would have continued. These guys only have one agenda.

    June 3, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. greg

    The fact is that the BO administration is in full-out damage control over this nomination. Amazing that they immediately have to start apologizing for Judge Sotomayor's statements that legitmately call into question her fitness for the Supreme Court.

    June 3, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Rod

    Newt Gingrich is a man that shoots from the hip and thinks about what he has said after the fact. He is a blowhard and his 15 minutes of fame expired many years ago. He is no longer relevant to the current political scene.

    June 3, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. Tristan

    And this guy wants to be president?!?

    June 3, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. Adam

    I like Obama and what he's doing but this was a completely political choice.

    Once she explains how being "Latina woman" makes her experiences "richer" than a white man's, then I'll understand.

    She backtracked in her explanation and it is not acceptable.

    June 3, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  14. Old Farmboy

    The statement is irrelevant due to the fact that a "white male" could never live the life of a "wise Latina woman." I do however feel that the statement is mildly racist, but not something worth grandstanding about. I give her credit with her determination coming from where she did to where she is, but that alone does not warrant a lifetime seat in the highest court of this land.

    June 3, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. Dave

    You should practice saying "I was wrong" a lot, Newt... because you've been wrong about everything you've ever said in your long and ugly career. You are one seriously lousy human being, and with your track record of evil you shouldn't be trying to judge anyone else. Accept it.

    June 3, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  16. Tim in NC

    In the political world, saying this NOW is like trying to pull the bullet out of your foot after you shot yourself and then going on like nothing happened.

    Good one Newty, that political comback is looking better and better everyday.

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  17. Ronald Clowney

    I am glad Newt Gingrich admitted his wrong. His explanation for his "racist" comment is the norm for most of us. The "wise Latina woman" remark was a poor choice of words. I am a 59 year old liberal who has had his own fair share of poor choice of words. It always pays to promptly admit when you are wrong and say so.

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  18. Amazed

    Newt is irrevelent & his Palin Party is irrevelent.

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. Res ipsa loquitur

    Guess this means Rush will excommunicate Newt from the GOP as well?

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  20. Randy Hickey

    Make up your mind Newt!

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  21. Dave

    so Newt, you sack of sxxx. Were you lying then, or are you lying now?

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  22. Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

    Translation: "Oh nuts! I shot off my mouth and made it impossible for Republicans to seriously block her."

    Ever wonder if Newt, Rush, Dick, Carl, Ann, and Sarah are actually Democrat moles within the Republican party whose job is to sabotage any hope for a conservative resurgence?

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  23. MatthewDetroit

    I dont believe the woman is a racist, but she does have a slant towards white people.
    The issue is that she can not be objective.
    She more importantly has shown that believes in making law from the bench which is wrong. She does not believe in the constitution. She believes in her feelings rather than reading the law as it is written.

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  24. Mike

    It's funny how those the likes of Gingrich, Limbaugh, and the GOP in general calling Sotomayor a racist! These are the same people who don't tolerate anyone who doesn't look and think like them.

    June 3, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  25. Latina for Obama

    No,you shouldnt have

    June 3, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
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