June 3rd, 2009
12:27 PM ET
11 years ago

Sotomayor hits Hill again as GOP race rhetoric cools

Judge Sonia Sotomayor continued making the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor continued making the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Judge Sonia Sotomayor continued making the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday, meeting several additional U.S. senators who will help decide whether she becomes the country's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

At the same time, one leading Republican backed away from earlier heated criticism of Sotomayor in which he labeled her a racist. The shift appeared to reflect an ongoing debate within the GOP on how best to critique Sotomayor without alienating women or Hispanic voters.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he initially reacted too strongly after reading a 2001 speech by Sotomayor in which she said she "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."

Gingrich wrote last week in the on-line forum Twitter that Sotomayor's remarks were racist and that she should therefore be forced to withdraw as President Barack Obama's nominee.

"New racism is no better than old racism," Gingrich wrote. "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

On Wednesday, however, Gingrich released a lengthy op-ed in that seemed to back away from his initial reaction.

"My initial reaction was strong and direct - perhaps too strong and too direct," Gingrich wrote in the conservative publication Human Events.

"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."

Gingrich added that "the word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."

Gingrich's change in sentiment was immediately praised by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I'm very glad he backed off," Sessions told CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

"I think that will help us have a real good discussion about the serious issues that the nation faces and the court faces."

Sessions added that he has "been troubled as I looked at her record as to whether or not she's an activist ... (but) I just haven't felt that it's appropriate to make those kind of strong statements about her."

Other leading conservatives have also reacted harshly to Sotomayor's record. Popular radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh labeled her a "reverse racist," and former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo asserted that her association with the Hispanic group La Raza was the equivalent of a membership in the Ku Klux Klan.

Some political analysts have warned that the Republicans are risking putting themselves on trial in front of Latino-Americans.

"If they line up uniformly in hostility against the first Hispanic woman (nominated) to the court, they risk paying a terrible price with the biggest and fastest-growing minority in this country," CNN political analyst David Gergen said.

On Tuesday, leading Senate Democrats tried quell the controversy over Sotomayor's Latina remarks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said after meeting with Sotomayor that the judge told her the controversial remarks were a "poor choice of words."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Sotomayor told him that "of course one's life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely ... as a judge you follow the law. There's not one law for one race or another. There's not one law for one color or another. There's not one law for rich, a different one for poor. There's only one law."

Leahy also ripped Sotomayor's critics for launching "the most vicious (attacks) I've ever seen."

He said that the Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings would not begin until afterJune, but "with the attacks that have been going on against her, I believe it'd be irresponsible to leave her hanging out there."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was non-committal when asked about a timetable, saying only that "we're going to do this as quickly as we can (but) won't set any arbitrary deadlines."

Obama has called for his nominee to be confirmed before the start of the next Supreme Court term in October.

Sotomayor is slated to spend her second day on Capitol Hill meeting with 10 additional senators.

She is scheduled to meet with, among others, Sens. Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire; Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

She also is expected to meet with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has called on her to apologize for her Latina comment. Graham recently called the comment "troubling and inappropriate."

"She's going to have to convince me that if I found myself in court against someone she had a lot of empathy for, that I'd get a fair shake," Graham said. "If she can't, I won't vote for her."

–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report

Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    It's not rhetoric CNN, when her own words paint her as such.

    June 3, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. ray ray

    I sincerely HOPE someone will ask Sotomayer what exactly she meant about a Latina women making better judicial decisions than white men.

    PLEASE – have her fully explain this statement.

    June 3, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    The damage to the GOP has already been done. Thanks Boss Limbaugh and Newt the Grinch. There was a song that came out a while back. It went something like this......I see your true colors, shining through.

    June 3, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Clifford in New York

    This woman is such an air head the conservative justices will have there way with her. She will be a blessing in disguise!

    June 3, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  5. LoLo

    Those republican talking heads are truly confused. They flip-flop worse than whale in water. They should just shut up and sit down and really think about where they want to be in the futeure. Jealousy really distorts the mind when you let it take over your thought process. They really need new vibrant, thinking people to lead their party into the future. The good old boys are getting alzheimer disease.

    June 3, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. Teleprompter of the U.S.A.

    The damage to the GOP has already been done. Thanks Boss Limbaugh and Newt the Grinch. There was a song that came out a while back. It went something like this……I see your true colors, shining through.

    So, we saw liberals true colors when they went after Clarence Thomas, Miguel Estrada, etc., etc., etc.?

    Liberal hypocrisy astounds me. Not that they practice in it, but that they think no one notices.

    June 3, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. MatthewDetroit

    Terrible excuse for a US president.
    Now Barack is giving away information that should not be released.

    U.S. Releases Secret List of Nuclear Sites by Accident
    Document that gives detailed information about civilian nuclear sites and programs, marked "highly confidential," was accidentally made public by the federal government.

    June 3, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Linda from Minnesota

    Much ado about nothing. If you read her whole speech, there is no way you can call her a racist. Time to move on and get her confirmed before the supreme court reconvenes this fall.

    June 3, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Dennis

    Do not be concerned Judge, Newt, along with all of his ulta conservative buddies will be crawling back under their rocks when they finally realize their cause is lost!!!

    June 3, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Sharon Kitchen

    from the terrible SHRINKING / shreaking base................the rep......are somewhat backing off their terrible language...........but all this shows is that they will hide their true feelings and go through the motions of looking like they are being fair-minded and listening......when in reality, they have already said out loud......very loud.....what boss rush wants them to say.So ....in the end of the hearing they will still remain the way they are right now......narrow -minded small group,unto themselves, they wish to be and vote and then speak in the same voice........do not be decieved.....they know no better way to act.

    I only hope some of them can break from the iron grip of rush to be the people they should be and not what rush wants them to be.

    June 3, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. MatthewDetroit

    This lady is a terrible choice.
    She does not believe in the costitution.
    She is not objective.
    She is racist. Too many republicans apologize when they should not.
    She is what she is. She believes in affirmative action and does not believe in merit.
    She believes in changing laws from the bench which is opposite of her swarn oath.
    She is an extremist and has made many bad decisions.
    She has had 8 of 10 decisions recently turned over by the supreme court. Some were overturned by 6 -3 and even 7-2 votes.
    She is a bad choice for the US Supreme Court.
    But that is why barack picked her. He wants to change the constitution.

    June 3, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. Truth Teller

    To Matthew in Detroit.

    You are an idiot.

    June 3, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  13. MatthewDetroit

    I must agree with the Dems on one thing.
    The Republican is very weak and made up of a bunch of politicians. Instead of standing up for what is right they are worried about looking good. They have lost their integrity like specter has. They are only worried about their next paycheck and getting re elected.
    It is too bad.
    McCain was the worst choice for a Republican Presidential Candidate. He is not strong and is a shadow of what a conservative stands for.
    Too much spending during the Bush years and too much placating to the Dems.
    It will be very hard for the Republicans to find a leader.
    They are lost like the Dems were lost the last 8 years.
    2 Presidential runs with idiot GORE and KERRY taught the DEMS.
    Unfotunately we put idiot MCCAIN up and took a loss.

    June 3, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  14. Kelby In Houston, TX

    ray ray June 3rd, 2009 12:31 pm ET

    I sincerely HOPE someone will ask Sotomayer what exactly she meant about a Latina women making better judicial decisions than white men.

    PLEASE – have her fully explain this statement.
    Hey ray ray. Why don't you read the whole speech? OR you can listen to what congressmen, who have already met with her, who have already asked her to fully explain that statement, had to say. Your wish has already been granted...yesterday 😉
    Aren't you paying attention?

    June 3, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. southerncousin

    How come CNN has not reported the stupid, racist comments that Charlie Rangel made this weekend and given us conservatives a chance to rip him apart like the dope smokers got with Newt's remarks? Which reminds me, what ever happened to that investigation that Pelosi was conducting about Rangel paying his taxes? And how come there have been no followup stories on CNN about the various investigations about ACORN? CNN has run plenty of stories allowing the dope smokin' libs to tear Bristol Palin apart, but no follow up on these other stories that show libs for the crooks and cheats that they are? No fair and balanced on CNN?

    June 3, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    @ Teleprompter of the U.S.A

    The " I know you are, but what am I" stance is not an argument.

    June 3, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  17. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    I thought senselessly attacking was all the GOP was left with.

    June 3, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. Telepooper of the U.S.A

    ray ray June 3rd, 2009 12:31 pm ET

    I sincerely HOPE someone will ask Sotomayer what exactly she meant about a Latina women making better judicial decisions than white men.

    PLEASE – have her fully explain this statement

    Get off your lazy butt and read the entire statement she made instead of taking one line out of context.

    June 3, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. Typical Republican

    She's a wet back! Don't let any mexicans into power. Us white supremacists type people don't want no woman in a position of authority!

    This country is only for us WHITE, RICH MEN. Screw the rest of you all, you are only here to serve us!

    June 3, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  20. michiganruth

    Newt should not give in. his first remarks were on target. this woman was selected because she was Hispanic...her "wise Latina" remark was NOT taken out of context, read the speech, this is what she believes.

    I am saddened that we are now more racially motivated in 2009 than we were before. Obama and the Dems have succeeded in dividing us into identity interest groups. "a house divided" anyone?

    June 3, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  21. Dennis

    As a Republican, I don't think she is a bad choice. It could be a lot worse. Her record is not that libleral and the indicates are that she is not a big supporter of abortion, Sure, I would like to see another justice inthe vein of John roberts, but that's not going to hapen in the next 4 years.

    June 3, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. PFFT

    I've read the entire speech, and I still want her to explain. I don't trust her judgement – she has proven again and again, that she'll put the needs of special interest groups ahead of the law. And she belives that she (as the judiciary) can make the policies.

    Unfortunately, because I call a spade a spade, I'm racist.

    June 3, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  23. makesUwonder

    Why on earth would Newt back off the truth. I know the truth is hard to handle sometimes, but when you speak the truth don't back off of it. Sotomayor is a racist, plain and simple.
    One other point. I read today that little date night with Obama and his wife cost the taxpayers 3 million. But, the Obama's did pick up the tap for dinner and a play. WOW.

    June 3, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  24. I laugh at Limbaugh daily

    Shes going to be a great one.Im laughing at the street teamers on here using all those names.Your not fooling anyone anymore.Hahaha

    June 3, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. Ted, Washington DC

    It is the lockerroom and off the cuff remarks that tell you more often than not what a person is all about. I don't think that the lady judge is racists but her comments reveal her arrogance and drive to shine at any cost, including stupid remarks. People should remember that judges seek their appointments for no altruistic reasons but ego and drive tol feed taht ego. And some whom hardly can distinguish their right hand from their left, do so as a soucrce of income.

    June 3, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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