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. Claudia in Houson

    Calling someone a racist is not the kind of dialogue Atty. General Eric Holder previously spoke about and further proves people like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh should not be in the political arena.

    June 3, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Moderate Democrat

    Retardism is certainly the strong point of the neo-con extremists of the republican party. The comments here painting her as a racist are pathetic attempts at hyping false propoganda. In the context of her statement, in no way shape or form are the comments racist.

    But, if you have short attention spans, are slow, lazy or simply can not take an over all approach to a speech. Then you rely on 'skimming' and extracting only the point that makes your own point. So sure, if you are a retard you can grab the little blurb and quote and then yell 'racist'. But all that accomplishes, is in the eye's of those who read the WHOLE speech, paint you as a moron, and a racist grasping at straws to call the other side racists.

    A white guy that isn't retarded like those calling her racist.

    June 3, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  3. IndepndentAmerican

    **********CNN please do us all a favor and post her comment so that people can read it over and over. The ignorance of some of the bloggers is showing!*******************************************************

    @ ray ray.........You, sir, need to educate yourself about her judicial decisions and then you can intelligently speak.

    June 3, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Treat her like Obama treated Roberts and Scalia

    When does a Presidential candidates words not matter as in "typical white person" ....... when it is Obambi.

    When does a Supreme courts nominess words not matter as in "as Latina woman I would make BETTER decisions than a white male" agaon when it is a Liberal minority.

    Dave the truth teller is on to something, lets start all these groups and be proud of our heritage as well and all the white Liberals would be crying as they would be LOWEST on the totem poll

    The pain you Liberal apologists are feeling is called the truth, and sometimes it hurts.

    June 3, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. CNN = Moveon.org

    Most Democrats are racist so I don't feel bad about calling them on it. They voted for a President based on his race for crying out loud. Just admit that your "democrat" party is a racist party and move on. You are not fooling anyone except maybe yourselves.

    June 3, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Just the Facts GOP ... Rebel Yells Not Wanted

    Mr. Gingrich shot his mouth off like the rightwing nuts often do instead of being a party of INTELLECT and thinking about the facts. Nobody wants to be part of the DUMMY Party.

    Unfortunately, the Judge's credentials are impecable and the GOP, which feels it MUST resist anything President Obama does latched on to what it thought would work. I hope the Dems go right at this racist thing.

    I think her judicial record will reveal how often she has voted for "the hispanic or the black guy" when the rest of her colleagues have voted in favor of "the white guy".

    I'm willing to bet that when you look at those statistics, you WON'T see any factual basis to support the "she will discriminate against the WHITE GUY" innuedo that Gingrich, Limbaugh, or any other Republicans (like weak minded McConnell) tried to SLANDER HER WITH.

    GOP ... the facts win .... You Lose.

    June 3, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Ms. Sotomayor, good luck to you. You have earned the right to have this wonderful opportunity. I've read some of your decisions and find that will be a welcomed, and long overdue addition to the Supreme Court. Those that choose to gripe about you with little to no information: let them stew in the juices of their own ignorance, and ill-hidden bigotry.

    June 3, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. Ted Tartaglia

    Judge Sotomayor should be judged on her record not some comment she made years ago. We have all said things that could have been said better.

    It is nice to see some Republicans willing to give her a chance, however, one might question some of their motives. I think some Republicans have figured out that it might not be too wise to antagonize Hispanic voters so they have backed off, not because of a sense of fairness but because of a cold political calculation.

    June 3, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Gary

    Racist? Maybe. Her statements are concerning, possibly some of her decisions are as well. It is sad that Martin Luther Kings dream is still a dream.

    June 3, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Ted Tartaglia


    You are the perfect example of a fool. Stick with the topic at hand instead of complaining that one ideologue is treated worse than another ideologue.

    June 3, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  11. FloridaRes

    The GOP continues to make themselves irrelevant. Talk about Gingrich shooting the GOP in the foot with his accusation that Sotomajor is racist.

    Since Sotomajor votes with the 2 other appeals court judges 80% of the time and these judges just happen to be conservative, it would seem the GOP would be thrilled to have her appointed. Oh no! It wasn't their idea and they don't get credit from the Hispanics for her appointment so they try to make as much trouble as they can. Pretty petty and awful.

    June 3, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. Kevin B

    Race is only the issue for the simpled minded, The statement made by the nominee when taken in context are not even close to the vitriolic charges being hurled about on the this blog and in the media

    In the end she will be confirmed as was Thomas and Alito and will make a fine justice.

    It is amazing how such distortion is being ginned up by the media

    America would do well to get away for the 24 hour news cycles, it is making americans into mindless reactionarys and fodder for fools

    June 3, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  13. Cheney's mother named him "Dick" for a reason

    If you know what's good for you, you'll hold your fire and back off, Rushcheneycons, or you'll find yourselves further in the woods than you already are with a lesser supply of lanterns, flares and the shrinking pup tent that represents your party.

    June 3, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Kevin B

    Race is only the issue for the simpled minded, The statement made by the nominee when taken in context are not even close to the vitriolic charges being hurled about on the this blog and in the media

    In the end she will be confirmed as was Thomas and Alito and will make a fine justice.

    This is prime example of "yellow journalism"

    America would do well to get away from the 24 hour news cycles, it is making americans into mindless reactionaries.

    June 3, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  15. Pepou

    I see that the racist haters are out of the closet. See Mr. Clifford in NY who knows an air head when he sees one ....

    June 3, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  16. Jamie Blakely

    I have to agree that much too much is said negatively about white men; they are Americans, too, after all. Our country became great under the leadership of white men, and now look at it all going to heck under the leadership of non-white men...

    June 3, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  17. Sylvia

    We will have to celebrate when Judge Sotomayor gets on the SCOTUS! That will be a great day for all Americans!!!

    June 3, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. debkay

    @PFFT who said: "Unfortunately, because I call a spade a spade, I'm racist"

    Well . . . yeah, that makes you a racist allright. See how if feels to have your remarks taken out of context??!!!

    June 3, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  19. Andy J, NY, NY

    latinas... hispanics... women... blah... blah... blah

    so much for an end to race identity politics.

    what a crock of crap.

    June 3, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. Andy J, NY, NY

    sotomayor is the one who started the race rhetoric.

    cnn, you are complete garbage.

    June 3, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. arithmetic is liberal

    makesUwonder June 3rd, 2009 12:51 pm ET

    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.

    So it's 3 million now? Wow! The White House never released a single figure or estimate, and it seems like that number gets even higher every time a conservative opens his uninformed yap.

    Did Bill the-Tiller-Killer O'Reilly tell you that last night?

    June 3, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. Andi

    Dave the truthteller –
    You need to realize that the US was designed around the needs and desires of white men. Others were kept down by legal and illegal means. The tide is turning, and the in the US, white men are swiftly losing the majority status. If you want to start pro-white groups, no one is stopping you. Good luck.

    June 3, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. LacrosseMom

    Each time CNN has an article about Sotomayor, the comment that has busted the gut of some "insecure-white-men" should be posted as well.

    Its not really fair to discuss her comment about how being a Latina has given her a richness of experience,without her entire comment.

    Some insecure-white-men continue to misrepresent her, by stating that she said that is "better than a white judge"..... which is not what she said!

    Have to laugh at Newt and other GOP-ers, who will be eating crow soon! And realizing that their hateful rhetoric will cost them not only Latino votes, but Asian votes, African-American votes, etc., etc.

    Minorities in our Nation have long suspected that the GOP is not really a "friend" that they actually are prejudice against them, but need their votes.

    Now we know for a fact that the Republican party is for the white people and white people,preferably MEN, ONLY!

    June 3, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  24. shucks

    The republican party is doomed until someone has the testicles to tell the likes of Gingrich, Cheney, and Limbaugh to get lost, and that they do not speak for the republican party as none of them are elected officials at this time. I find it amusing that the most vocal mouthpieces of the party don't even hold office now. They just can't give up being in the spotlight. Well, we are tired of their rhetoric, tired of their divisivness, and tired of their lies. The damage they are doing to the republican party is enormous. I have friends who are republican who are more embarrassed daily. They don't even want to admit that they are republicans.

    June 3, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  25. Turnabout is Fair Play

    MatthewDetroit June 3rd, 2009 12:35 pm ET

    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.

    Don't be a retarded tool. Despite you wanting to blame our president for everything wrong or bad, you cannot blame him for this, The Federal Government is more than just one man you fool.

    June 3, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
1 2 3 4