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. Jeff in Virginia

    Why is Gingrich still in the news?

    He left the congress amid ethical problems.

    He was cheating on his own wife while going after Clinton for doing the same.

    He has no moral authority. None.

    It is an outrage that you people even report on him.

    June 3, 2009 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  2. DaBird

    No Newt, you should have called her racist, radical LaRaza member, judge who feels the need to make laws instead of enforce the law.

    June 3, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  3. Amazing!!!

    Nice backpeddling, Newt!

    June 3, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  4. Newt

    All of you are forgetting one detail: white Americans have all the money, power and influence. Whites have to be humble to avoid civil unrest among other races. Latinos in particular like to assume the role of the Victim. They blamed the Aztecs, the Spaniards, the early Mexican government and now the all-powerful Yanqius for all their problems.

    June 3, 2009 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  5. ronie patrick

    This is a terrible man to begin with. I throught we had buried him so why has he surfaced again. Don't pay any attention to this old fool.

    June 3, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  6. Tim S

    That's the way Newt works.... Do whatever damage he can, then backtrack with a little tap-dance & "correction". Please climb back under your rock, Newt.

    June 3, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. 21% of Americans are TRAITORS for wanting America to FAIL and 79% of Americans to SUFFER!

    I for one, am glad this racist and sexist clown has finally come out of the "closet".

    It truly rips the mask off of the republiKLAN party and exposes the true party which consists of white, Aryan Nation survivalist.

    Now we progressive whites know who the true enemy is. The repubs can continue to try and put a "new" face on the racial and religious bigotry of the repub party, while most of us understood the true agenda of the Rabid Reich this shows it to more moderates that may not have been able to believe such bigoted beliefs still existed in America!

    June 3, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  8. CW, St. Paul

    That's Newtie – Impulsive. Doesn't think before he responds to situations. I'm glad he doesn't hold any actual power.

    June 3, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  9. Accountability

    Where's the apology? Or can Repubs only apologize to Rush?

    June 3, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. mw

    You are a first class jerk. The rude comment was expected from you and your ilk. Shame on you and yours daily.

    June 3, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. Reese'-Rich VA

    I guess NEWT had to remember all the RACIST things he had done or said in his life. Simple GOP please don't talk about racist.

    June 3, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  12. phoenix86

    No need to apologize Mr. Speaker. Sotomayor's comment was racist (had it been a male judge who said the same thing he would have already been disbarred).

    Obama is racist as well, so this choice just further consolidates an intolerant regimes stranglehold. Unfortunately, they appear to have sufficiently beaten the press into compliance and silence.

    June 3, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  13. Chris

    This whole issue would go away entirely if Judge Sotomayor cleared the air and publicly announced that she does not believe that race has any impact whatsoever on the competency of a judge. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to be willing to do so... which leads me to believe it isn't just a "poor choice of words," but a deep rooted personal philosophy that by very definition is racist.

    Until she convinces me otherwise, I have to believe that such racist words come from an equally racist heart. And there is no room for racism, of any kind or amount, on the Supreme Court.

    June 3, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  14. Dr. Ed Holmes

    Newt Gingrich misspeaks and yet he critizes Judge Sotomayor for misspeaking. Every judge uses their opinions, life experiences in rendering judicial opinions. Look at Judges Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. They vote every time just like you would expect them to vote.

    Willard (Mitt) Romney belongs to the LDS church. You would expect him to be a Republican, be pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-gay marriage and if he became President, you would expect him to select judges that felt the same way he does and vote accordingly.

    June 3, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  15. GOPer

    Dear Mr. Gingrich: Please retire and take up self help writing on, "How Not To Act and What Not To Say". We need new/current talent in our party. Thank You!

    June 3, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. Desmond

    Newt Gingrich is beginning to show signs of intelligence and character.
    Congratulations. No danger of such a cataclysmic change ever taking place in the "RUSH"

    June 3, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  17. gl, Pittsburgh

    It is too late becasue the demanaged have already taking effect. This man is a blantant racist becasue it take one to no one. He have made several racist statements one too many times.

    June 3, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  18. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Ya think Newt? I'm more interested in knowing who is the person in your party that had enough "pull" to get you to retract that statement. Now there's a Republican I'd like to meet....so long as it is not Limpballs!

    June 3, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  19. Triggidy

    You think? Remember, think about what you say before you say it.

    June 3, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  20. Super D


    You should know better, even though you speak the truth about Soto.

    2 things:

    You're a Republican, so anything you say sticks to you, unlike Democrats.

    You're a white male, and it's ok to discriminate against white males. Because in the sick minds of anyone who isn't a white male, they believe that life for white males is a peice of cake.

    Nothing could be further than the truth.

    Don't ever apologize to these idiots again.

    June 3, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. Skeeve

    Nah, this is fine... you shouldn't have been speaking at all, since you have nothing to say, really. Other then this we expected no less then this from you 🙂

    June 3, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  22. ben

    Wha has happened to my republican party? Yes, I am a republican who voted for Obama. Why did I do this? I did it because the party had gone down so far because of the band of misfits at the top. Bush Cheney Rumfield et al. No need to mention all the terrible things that happened while these incompetents were running the show..
    So now, what is my party doing? They are letting the same bunch of dinosaurs speak out every day against the democrats who are trying to remedy the mess they left behind.
    The great party of Lincoln has become the lying deceitful party of George Bush. Please get rid of these blaber mouths and restore dignity to the republican party.

    June 3, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  23. R Wolf

    This man is a cheating irrevelant idiot. Why do you have to keep reporting every bit of trash he, bill, rush, ann and the other hate filled, non elected politicical pundits say? It should be more than just about ratings and shock value for the media. Don't you have any concern over what these stupid comments do to the Country at large? Please, just try and use some restraint when you report, please!!!!!!!!!

    June 3, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  24. Newt Comment

    You are leaving out one key detail: white Americans have all the money, power and influence. They have to be humble to avoid civil unrest. Latinos in particular like to blame others for their problems. First it was the Aztec oppressors, then every other culture who dominated them: the Spaniards, early Mexico, and now the Yanquis. As soon as Latinos learn how to stand on their own two feet, stop drinking so much beer and take responsibility for their own issues, maybe white racists like Newt will ease back on the rhetoric.

    June 3, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
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