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. bill

    So Newt is guilty of a "misspeak", the term that all politicians use when they say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

    He now has to worry about flack from his fellow idiot, Lortab Limbaugh for his changing his mind.

    June 3, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  2. Gary SC

    This man is dispicable. He is a liar and can't be trusted. Maybe him and Rush were seperated at birth and split one brain.
    He has so much hate he shouldn't be listened too.
    Don't trust his backpeddling, he's up to something.

    June 3, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Kate

    I'm so relieved. Now that Gingrich says Sotomayor is not a racist, we can all breathe easier!

    June 3, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. LJP

    What's that sound?....The sound of Newt Gingrich AGAIN fading away from the political spotlight because of his own arrogant brand of narrow-minded, one-sided self-righteousness.

    June 3, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. Lisa B in FL

    Newt – once an idiot, always an idiot.

    June 3, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. Jerzjen

    No Newt. The damage is already done. Just admit the truth. You finally read the speach, and realized you were wrong. You finally looked at her record and realized you were WRONG!! You and the other hate mongers owe this lady an apology! You want to debate her record fine, but the personal attacks on her as a Latina and as a woman can not just be pushed under the rug because suddenly you want to have an "honest conversation". You should have wanted the honest conversation from the start!

    June 3, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    Man up, Gingrich, she is a racist. Her words prove it, not the fact that we're pointing it out.

    June 3, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  8. John

    Newt has experience with poor wording but good on him anyway for admitting he made a kneejerk error. It's encouraging that he's big enough to do that.

    June 3, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  9. KASSIE W.

    Newt is back-peddling? I don't trust him, he's evil.

    June 3, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  10. Dale

    Frankly a DUMB Latina woman would more often than not reach a better conclusion than Newt Gingrich!

    June 3, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  11. Lisa B in FL

    Republicans – wrong again as usual. Oh boy, Limpballs is going to be pissed now!

    June 3, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  12. WhoCares?

    Can't put that back in the box Newty!

    Thanks for giving Democrats even more of the Hispanic and women voters next election cycle.

    You, Cheney, Rush, and Steele are the best things ever for Democrats.

    June 3, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. Truth Teller

    Too late for that bonehead, the damage (to your reputation, and party) has been done. People see you for what you really are. I am not a christian, but a christian saying fits perfectly here.

    "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

    June 3, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  14. Tim

    You shouldn't appologize when you are right.

    June 3, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  15. Georgian

    Newsflash: Gingrich is still a Bozo.

    June 3, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. pam Eugene OR

    Newt finally admits the GOP needs the Latino votes. How forthright and honest he is all of a sudden. He is still the lying scumbag he was last week people.

    June 3, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  17. Republicans are the American Taliban

    You can't unflush a toilet NEWT!!! You can't UNyell FIRE in the theatre!!! Again the tactic of publishing obscene comments, then coming back with " what I meant to say was ". That makes everything ok now, huh....

    June 3, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  18. tonyh

    Everything coming from Obama is considered bad, whether true or not, by the Newts and the Rushes. So who cares what they say anymore? Rush the Comedian lives on playing with politics, so I wish he became the chairman of the GOP. That would mean the end of the GOP. Go for it, Rush!

    June 3, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. Osama Bin Laden

    Too late presidential cadidate Ginrich. You had no chance to win before now you're definitely out of the running. You diasppeared once before from radar PLEASE DO US A FAVOR AND DO SO AGAIN!!!

    June 3, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  20. DJ Shorter

    When did he come to that conclusion??? After realizing his party has no chance at stopping her confirmation with smears and lies? Rich...

    June 3, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  21. S Callahan

    Now, this is a beginning. It's good to admit when one is wrong.
    Judge Sotomayor will do well for our country.

    June 3, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  22. Laurie in Spokane

    So Newt is backtracking after calling Sotomayor a racist. Goody for him, but he can't take back what he said. This just shows that he's not saying things that have true meaning for him, but just spouting venom at anything proposed by any Democrat. That man does not belong in any area to do with the public.

    June 3, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. suresh

    That is typical GOP tactic. First make a statement even though it is wrong. Then take it back. Meantime the damage is done. This is one more example how the leadership in GOP is only interested in going against anything Obama does. Like Rush said, they want this president to fail.

    June 3, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  24. mark ferbet, kansas city, mo.

    I believe the GOP is begining to realize that their ability to influence this President rests entirely in their ability to control the extreme right rhetoric. Newt's comments were unacceptable and too harsh, and the backlash within his own party to those remarks was strong. politically, Newt can only talk.... let him try to run for office, and the dirt that forced his resignation as speaker will be brought to light again, and he will no longer be relevant.

    June 3, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  25. Anonymous

    Isn't this a pattern for Newt? He spews his venom and hatred and then quietly apologizes a few d

    June 3, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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