June 3rd, 2009
12:30 PM ET
14 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. Shadysider

    I'm just gonna go ahead and say Gingrich is a racist.

    June 3, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  2. Ren from Baltimore

    Newt, you stepped in it bigtime, showing you shoot before aiming. Now this half-apology, with an aside of "Obama dn Gibbs said it too!"

    You still admit only to having read the one sentence of hers, from eight years ago, and not the rest of her statement there. You have not addressed the context at all. Either you want to meet the responsibilities of a spokesperson and do your homework thogoughly, or you will end up being totally ignored-

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

    I believe Gingrich is a racist!

    June 3, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  4. Jay

    Wow, a republican admitting he shot first and then asked the question. Perhaps Gnewt, next time you should just keep your mouth shut until your brain gets in gear – I think at least a week should be about right to warm your gray matter to a humanly functioning level.

    June 3, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. Harold Abbott

    Which of Newt's multiple personalities is speaking this time?

    June 3, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. mw

    Let me dial back on that comment.

    June 3, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  7. Karl Denton

    It's pretty interesting how the republicans come out with these BLASTING moments and then a week later retract or tone them down. Make no mistake, the way they are handling this is purposeful and with intent. Cause outrage then apologize for the "poor choice of words" later. I am a white middle class American and I don't see anything wrong with what she said. It's TRUE, she has perspective the bumbling republicans will never have because they cannot see past there own noses and hatred!

    June 3, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  8. Deb

    Republicans are so quick to want to draw first blood. Newt's constant twittering and God awful remarks are just not helping him or his party.

    June 3, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  9. mw

    I like "Shut up"

    June 3, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  10. Just My Opinion in Texas

    Her comment WAS racist and the reason for that assertion is that if a white man had said the same thing, only subbing "wise, white man" for "wise, Latina" he'd have been excoriated by EVERY member of the news media (TV, radio and print.) and you would have been hearing calls for him to take his name out of consideration from every corner of this country. So why is it if a minority says something OBVIOUSLY racist, he/she gets a pass from the media and the politicians??

    I'm not asking for special consideration for anyone, I'm just asking for people to use the same measuring stick for everyone. That's all.

    June 3, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  11. Jak

    So he says her words were unacceptable, yet he fails to say to his words were unacceptable? Let me help you, Newt...

    "My reaction was a personal attack that was inexcusable. Though I may not agree with what Judge Sotomayor said, I had no place insulting her in such a personal way and I am sorry."

    Seriously... if you want to truly acknowledge you said something wrong, don't immediately follow it up with an excuse that pins blame back on her.

    June 3, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  12. Ms. Dee, Texas

    Newt is only bowing to pressure from his base. From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. He meant every word he uttered.

    The American people are not going to fall for that pious act of remorse. We know you really believe your sentiments as well as the Republican base.

    Too late . . . we will not be MISLED by your lame apology!

    June 3, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  13. Adele

    Really ? Second thoughts ? Maybe you should think before you open your big extremist mouth ...

    June 3, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  14. Change_Has_Begun

    looks like the republicans are finally realizing that hispanics will be key participants in american politics...so rush, hannity and coulter get your heads straight and out of your a$$es...

    June 3, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  15. Whammybar

    So maybe Newt's initial comment means that she was correct! Way to go Newt, just be yourself. Hard to pedal backwards isn't it? You are the exact kind of "white guy" she was refering to. What are people like you afraid of?
    By the way, I'm a "old white guy" also. Just sick and tired of all the bigotry and crap from your type for the last 50 years. She's a great choice and will add a great and needed perspective to the court.

    June 3, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  16. alvino

    He should resign. Oh wait, other than titular co chair of the republican party, he does not have a job. One would think that even the right wing nuts would prefer to not have a leader who speaks first and thinks later.

    June 3, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  17. gl, Pittsburgh

    Like all Republicans have been doing for the past 8 years, Shot first and review later.

    June 3, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  18. NewtTheFruit

    He shouldn't talk at al – no one listens.

    June 3, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  19. Angie in Pa

    Too Late Newt Its out there and we all Know you dont Regret saying it! LIAR!

    June 3, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  20. Enough

    Maybe not, But I will, she's a racist. But it's ok cause she's a hispanic and racist against whites. And NO, I am not a white male, just sick of all the double standard from the Democratic party.

    June 3, 2009 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  21. TCM

    yes you should have! Past performance is an indicator of future performance, and she's not going to rule with the letter of the law; but instead she'll cower to Obama's liberal agenda to pass laws that will hurt the spirit of America.

    June 3, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  22. As for the Speaker who was booted for ethics

    Whatever Newt, the Republican party is following a former Speaker of The House that had to resign because of ethics violations, loud mouth Rush Limbaugh and an admitted liar Cheney...please keep it up for the Southeastern Republican Party...I love it...self-destruction at it's best!

    June 3, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. Bev - NYC

    Poor Gingrich, you already said it. I guess someone finally told you that these word can be played in a continous loop should you decide to run for something again. See what happens when you let a man who couldn't hack it in college do the research for your talking points, you have too take them back. The judge was expressing pride in her heritage just like white men have done for centuries. Pride is not the domaine of whites only. Hypocrite much Mr. Gingrich, which party nominated a Justice who belonged to a whites only country club?

    June 3, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  24. goawayrepublicans

    I see, only Republicans and Conservatives are allowed to walk back from things they may have said, calling it a poor choice of words. Really guys, get a life, you have been around for way too long, the world is changing and I for one look forward to the day when all the old white hairs are gone on both sides of the isle.

    June 3, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  25. Pat in IL

    Instead of the more intelligent approach of reading her comments in context nad intent, Gingrich, Rush, et al decided to immediately attack in a hateful, divisive manner......shame on them.

    June 3, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
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