July 19th, 2009
07:41 PM ET
14 years ago

Leahy on Sotomayor: 'Stop the racial politics'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor should be judged on the merits of her 17-year judicial record and the week of confirmation hearings that just ended rather than on suspicions about her racial allegiances.

“You had one leader of the Republican Party call her the equivalent to the head of the Klu Klux Klan,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy said on CNN’s State of the Union. “Another leader of the Republican Party called her a bigot,” Leahy added, later explaining that he was making reference to comments by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

After Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Ranking Republican on the committee, referred to Sotomayor’s past involvement in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, Leahy again suggested that some Republicans were being unfairly critical of Sotomayor.

“I hope we don’t go back to the day when we used to have African-Americans up for confirmation and say ‘Yes, but you belong to the NAACP so, you know, we’re really suspicious of you,’” Leahy said CNN’s State of the Union.

“C’mon, stop the racial politics,” Leahy added.

Leahy remarks drew an immediate response from Sessions.

“Oh, c’mon, Pat. I’m going to disagree on that,” Sessions said.

“No but that’s the way it comes across . . . It comes across - if you belong to a group that tries to help Hispanics, help them in school, help them in other things, somehow you’re suspicious. The same arguments were used against Thurgood Marshall and others. I think it’s wrong,” Leahy said.

“I want to correct something,” interrupted Sessions. “No Republican leader said she was a bigot. You’ve overstated that. There’s nothing wrong with us asking her about the personal views about positions – legal positions – that she took as the member of an organization. That’s a normal thing to do. I don’t think that was unfair.”

soundoff (301 Responses)
  1. Ernesto

    The usual GOP rhetoric is getting stale. I guess calling others names beats facing the issues of morality and stupidity within their own ranks. Sessions is a real nut case without any reservations about attacking windmills. Graham is really weird in his Sotomayor praise one second and condemnation the next. Maybe all these GOP guys cheat on their wives to simply avoid valium.

    However, racism is horrible applied to any race. Even the playing field, but objectively seek the best. I don't have any racial prejudice or standards to a good fireman or policeman. If no blacks qualify or no whites qualify then they simply didn't meet standards. Good luck next time. Hire the best.

    July 19, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. Bill

    The Republicans are no worse than the Dems during the Miguel Estrada and Chief Justice Roberts hearings.

    July 19, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  3. wagon

    Only democrats can bring up race and call people racists. They own the issue. And I agree with comments earlier – Obama is still playing the race card these days – just as he did in the campaign. Just as many racists and bigots in the democratic party as in the republican party.

    Unlike Larry, I would never vote Democrat. If my long deceased grandfather, who worked on the railroad, belonged to a union and voted Roosevely were still alive, I'd probably weaterbaord him until he renounced his party affiliation. Bunch of class envy, money envy, self-righteous, smug knuckleheads.

    July 19, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  4. therealmarie

    Jeff Sessions is about as racially sensitive as CNN is a honest news organization. C'mon, John King is no one's honest broker.

    July 19, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  5. DJ in the Silicon Forest

    CNN, just who is in charge of the Ticker? Your bias is showing big time, but then you already know that and don't care! I have tried to post to many of the health care articles on the Ticker, only to find it closed after mid-range double digit comments. In looking at nine articles in the last two days about health care, they had 36,43, 58, 60, 65, 73, 88, 139 and 153 comments when they were closed. Could it be the SCATHING negative comments about ObamaCare from both Democrats and Republicans that you don't want the public to know about? We're not stupid...far from it!
    Why don't you have a set policy of 200 or gee, I don't know, how about let every Ticker article go to to 300 like you do when it's Palin Bashing Time, huh? Grow up and do your job! Better yet, go back for a refresher course of Journalism 101 and bone up on what journalism is SUPPOSED to be. Sheesh! As a journalism student in the late 70's, I never thought I'd see the day when what was once a respectable (yet low-paying) job has sunk so very, very low. A biased media is never good for any country, no matter what party a person belongs to. I believe that the big networks are the closest thing to a state run media, the likes of which we have never seen before. Sad indeed, for America.

    July 19, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. Carl

    Has anyone said anything about her being a member of LA RAZA ,known as THE RACE.One of the most discrimmating groups there is.Of course not.
    I am going to tell you that if she is put on the supreme court,she will do everything in her power to discrimmate against white people.Just look on how she voted against the white firefighters case.

    July 19, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. Rickey

    Fellow American, we have NOT seen anything yet. This is the Republicans new fight. Race. Fox News and (R) politicians have been blaming minorities for everything since the election, i.e. economy, N1H1, you name it. Then they fought the hate crimes bill. Look at Fox News personalities call for vigilanti-ism. Also, during the election having people show up to Palin rallies holding monkeys and shout, "Kill him" and "Linch him". If anyone reall paid attention to the Tea-baggers, you will understand the theme here. Add these factors up and we should be very scared of the future.

    July 19, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  8. Joanna in PA


    Let me make something clear. 95% of you are clueless thats why the people in power get away with everything.

    July 19, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. RR

    Gingrich holds no position of power in the GOP.

    The democrats always yell "racism" every time someone dares asks questions about a minority nominee. Heaven forbid someone may have qualms about some of Sotomayor's statements and rulings!

    July 19, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  10. Ronald Clowney

    This nonsense does not warrant a comment!

    July 19, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  11. txleadhead

    How can she get the job on her own merits when it took affirmative action to get where she is? Does she call it fair being placed ahead of more qualified people?

    July 19, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    @ joe,

    It is actually a little scary reading some of the opinions on here. This great country has survived and prospered despite populous opinion and will continue to do so thanks to those of you with some common sense.

    Mr Newton Leeroy Gingrich did in fact call her a racist which was very disappointing.
    However, he is also the man that allowed Rupert Murdoch to own major media outlets as a foreigner in the US. He did so by special exemption when he was speaker of the house. That was the most un-american act I have experienced as an adult. So I suppose he know longer has any credibility with "thinking" versus reactionary Americans!

    July 19, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  13. Dennis, Amarillo Texas

    I get a great big laugh at Leahy and the Demo's who respond to your column. Leahy calls Republicans names, yet, Sotomayor spent 4 days in front of his committee. The Demo's dragged out Thomas's hearing 4 weeks, brought in a witness to slander him, and make a disgrace out of the hearings.

    Then you read all the Demo's emails here, and all you find the Demo's are racist and defaming with theri comments about Republicans. I bet 95% of the Demo emailers here are in fact a bunch of sissy's who sound tough but would run behind Sotomayor's skirts if they had to back up what they say man to man.

    July 19, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  14. Pointing Fingers!!!

    ***Newt called Sotomayer a Racist ***
    *Newt - wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from my surgery." – Jackie, his first wife.
    *Newt dead beta Dad
    *Draft Dodger And a Hypocrite!!!!!

    July 19, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. Brett

    If DEMS want the GOP to stop accusing good people of being racist when they clearly are not, I suggest they make the first move.

    Race bating has become the DEMS favorite game to play. Please enjoy a little more of your own medicine. It's an asinine game that doesn't serve the nation well, but you taught us all how to play.

    July 19, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. ABAYOMI,Houston

    These republicans again! Somebody needs to put them back on track.You can never get my vote again.

    July 19, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  17. JIm AZ

    If a white man made a statement that q white man would make a better decision than an hispanic women or a black man or whatever he would be called racist and would not even be considered as a justice but an hispanic women can say something a hispanic women can can make a better decision than a white man she is not a racist and her critics are crucified. Both comments are wrong. One more thing why are the Dems upset with what the GOP thinks unless they too are concerned about her comments.

    July 19, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  18. ib

    Now listen closely; if you do not bow down to everything the demo's and Obama want you are racist period. If you try to find out information about something before you agree or vote to it you are racist. Somebody help; this country is going down the tubes. Guess I'm racist.

    July 19, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  19. Danny J

    I love how liberal memory is so fleeting. Sotomayor was NOT the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court. She won't be the first hispanic on the Supreme Court, Either. Justice Benjamin Cardozo was on the SC for 6 years.

    Also, Emilio Garza was a top choice for George Bush's nomination to the SC, but he wasn't nominated due to the DEMS threatening a filibuster.

    The Republicans aren't even going to filibuster, yet they're labeled as racists. But when a Republican nominates a hispanic, and the Dems threaten to filibuster, there's no accusation of racism. How the heck is that fair or right? It isn't, its hypocrisy!

    July 19, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  20. andyg

    Senator Leahy cannot have it both ways. Do you remember the Clarence Thomas hearings? As Judge Thomas stated....this was a high tech lynching !!! And who can forget what the Dems did to Judge Bork? Are you kidding me? If anything, the GOP has been soft on Sotomayor. ......way too soft in my opinion. If a Republican had said some of the things this lady has said in the past....he would be lynched by the Dems. Stop whining Leahy !!!!!

    July 19, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  21. Jack

    You want to talk racism? The black community, which is by far Democrat, perpetuated the largest, single episode of racism by electing Obama to the Presidency just because he's black? Go back under your rock Leahy.

    July 19, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  22. Justin

    These comments are sad. People don't study, or even refer, to the issue at hand. Be it left or right, they fall back to their sides talking points, reciting them like robots.

    Is it any wonder that George Washington warned against having political parties at all?

    Party first is the new American battle cry.

    July 19, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  23. barbara

    Notfooled July 19th, 2009 2:27 pm ET

    Sessions, Limbaugh the true republican leader called her a bigot. Therefore, you are lying when you say a republican leader did not call her a bigot!!
    _ you sir are llying to yourself if you truly believe that limbaugh is a republican and a leader at that. Of course you believe this because the Dems told you to believe it. You are just one of 66 million people who can not seem to think for yourself. When, and if, you are able to grow enough brain cells you might realize that there are ALWAYS two sides to a story. Perhaps then you will be able to see things for what they really are. Until then, continue to follow your leader off the cliff.

    July 19, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  24. NevadaGeorge

    First, Sotomayor made this a racist nomination by saying, "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". My question to that statement would be, how does that make you interpret the Constitution of the United States better than a white male?
    Secondly, she was, quite obviously, the first to bring race into the mix, so please, quit saying it is the Republicans that are being racist. That to me is the pot calling the kettle black. There is no group more racist than a minority, period.

    July 19, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  25. 1fender

    hey southerncousin,

    you are obviously afraid that your fat old white a## is no linger going to be in power.

    To spew such hate and cast all lberal folks who care about America's future as "dope smoking" liberals just shows how ignorant you are.

    America will be a better place without you. If you don't like it here you could always go to the great democracy that Bush set up in Iraq. I am sure they will know what to do with you there!

    July 19, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
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