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. JB

    Funny, no one stopped calling Bush Hitler

    June 3, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  2. F-Dog

    Gingrinch would not have recanted if public opinion had swayed his way. As it appears more and more likely that she will be confirmed, he is trying to swing back to a more moderate stance. Perhaps we should simply ignore what he says from now on.

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  3. JB

    Give me a break. Newt hit the nail on the head "again".

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  4. Republicans= Party of NO (with no solution)

    Still can't believe that a party of elitist, racist, old white men have the nerve to call somebody else a racist. The statement was taken out of context. And thought I believe she could have worded it better, she meant that somebody of a different background could bring a new perspective.

    Relax Party of No, you still have most of the Judicial judges. You're are getting your panties in a bunch for no reason, but what else could we expect?

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  5. Art Michaelson

    Gingrich, Cheny, Limbaugh: The new TRIOKA of Right Wing hate politics.

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  6. southerncousin

    Any of you dope smokin' libs want to offer any kind of apology for your misstatements, that would be unheard of. Libs get away with those kind of statements. Look at what Charlie Rangel said over the weekend, not even a mention of it on CNN or MSNBC.

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  7. Gary T.

    You can back track All you like Mr. Gingrich!

    People are Not fooled!
    We have your number & have for a Long time!!

    I sincerely hope you & mr. Limbaugh keep spouting your decisive hate speech!

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  8. JPC

    Newt made a "poor choice of words"....Sotomayor made a "poor choice of words".....and the difference IS.........

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  9. David, Brooklyn

    So, another one of those "I'm sorry to those who took it bad" apologies.

    Or one of those, "I'm sorry my talking point didn't work the way I wanted it to" apologies.

    Or one of those, "I'm sorry the world isn't so neatly divided into juvenile categories the way it is in my head" apologies.

    I gotcha playa!

    June 3, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  10. Charles

    Newt Gingrich is one of the many examples (Rush Limbaugh being the other most prominent example) of what is wrong with the Republican Party:
    1. Bitter
    2. Spiteful
    3. Forgetful
    4. Hypocritic
    5. Dishonest
    6. Out of touch
    7. Irrelevant
    8. Talks the talk, but can't walk the walk (a.k.a. cowardly)
    9. Nothing new to say
    10. boring

    If they keep going like this, the GOP will be dead after the 2010 elections.

    June 3, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  11. MAD MEX

    Newt: Half hearted. Like me calling you an immoral fat ass, and then saying your previous filandering probs have nothing to do with you pudby face.

    June 3, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  12. Pete

    Utterly fascinating. Newt calls her a "racist" and demands her nomination immediately be withdrawn and then backpedals a week later.

    I guess if Gibbs makes a crack about how Newt served his wife with divorce papers while she was in a cancer ward, that will be ok as long as Gibbs backpedals as well?

    June 3, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  13. Waylon

    So what you are saying Newt is that you took the old strategy of throwing it out there and see if it sticks, IT DIDNT, so now you have to retract your words. Maybe if you were just inteligent and read the speech you wouldn't have this problem. Next time think before you speak. Let people assume you are smart and don't open your mouth and remove all doubt

    June 3, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  14. Tom Paine

    The statement(s) Sotomayor made about her ethnicity being "better" may not have been racist, but it certainly was dumb and calls her impartiality and competence into question.

    June 3, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  15. Bill

    I said it before and I say it again: Who cares what the "Newt" says anyway? He is far too deep in the drain to crawl back out; his time has come and gone, thank God. But, maybe, just maybe, we would like to hear his take on family values? That, indeed, WOULD be interesting!

    June 3, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  16. KMAN

    It's kinda hard to "un-lynch" someone isn't it Newt? Don't worry pal ... you are irrelevant and old news anyway.

    June 3, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  17. bob in LA

    That's OK Newt, you're a Republican. You're supposed to speak before thinking!
    All is forgiven- you headline-grabbing, closed-minded, hateful man.
    Oh- I shouldn't have said that!

    June 3, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  18. Retired US ARMY

    Case where lips were engaged prior to engaging brain.

    June 3, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  19. The Unshrub

    He sounds more and more like a typical republican; they like to shoot from the hip without thinking or learning all of the facts.

    June 3, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  20. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    Typical GOP crap!!! They throw a match at a can of gas and go "Ooops, did I do that?!"

    June 3, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  21. nbascribe

    The problem with anyone who is in the talk business is that rarely do they want open, honest dialogue with listeners.

    Honest dialogue makes for bad radio. If anyone had really read Judge Sotomayor's words in 2001 from the beginning of her speech to the end, one would find her to be in line with at least two other Supreme Court judges' experiences on life.

    That is why Americans need not let talk show hosts dictate their decision process but actually do their own research on issues like this.

    June 3, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  22. JT

    Kind of hard to retract such strong r@cist statements, Newt.

    June 3, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  23. Sticks and stones

    Taking back your words is like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube – usually ineffective.

    June 3, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  24. Joe E.

    Newt............ try a new approach..................
    THINK and RESEARCH before inserting foot in mouth.....................
    Then, and only then, say the politically expedient things that will gain you support.

    In Mark Twain's words, "It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak, and remove all doubt." You removed a lot of doubt on this one old boy.

    June 3, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  25. Derrick

    Newt, trying to cover up your mess isn't going to work. Both Republicans and Democracts alike can't stand you. We are starting to get past the partisanship and people like you, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow are getting in the way. America doesn't need your garbage. Step aside so that America's greatness can shine through.

    June 3, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
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