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. Lana

    Make no mistake – The GOP was the one under the microscope during the Sotomayor hearings. The only thing they succeeded in was making themselves undoubtedly re-earn their racist, sexist, bigoted reputation.

    July 19, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Gus The Willie

    Old whitemen need to know that there are people who are capable of doing more for the people and the country than they ever did for the last 200 years. They just need to let go, and accept the changes.

    This country no longer belong's to the Old Whitemen who thought they knew it all.

    July 19, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |

    Sessions needs to wash his sheet.

    July 19, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. Lynda/Minnesota

    The day the conservatives quit playing racist politics is the day they stop pimping out Jesus to further their political agenda.

    July 19, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  5. 0 for 4

    I believe most of our country has moved forward and is slowly coming out of the eight year Republican induced coma.

    Hearing the squeals of those stripped of power is like hearing the Wicked Witch of the West moan as she melts into oblivion.

    What a world....what a world.....

    July 19, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    The only way we are going to get rid of the old racist republicans is to vote them out of office.
    Come on everyone let's turn the rest of the red states BLUE!

    July 19, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. lou versace

    I am a college professor and, as much as I try to maintain balanced discussions in my classes, my students always arrive at the same bottom-line: AMERICA HAS BEEN AND STILL IS RACIST TO ITS CORE. It is only in our future generations that there is any hope for this struggling country. But before that can happen, all the benighted bigots have to die-out. And that will take time. But it is already happening.

    July 19, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Ronald M. Trachtenberg

    There was an article in my local paper (Wisconsin State Journal) how great it was that a judge in Rock County, Wisconsin was setting up a special court to handle non-violent criminal offenders who were veterans. The judge was a veteran and he was applauded for being able to use his experiences as a veteran to better understand and to properly sentence based upon those life experiences. Yes, life experiences are a factor in the application of law. (PS: I am a lawyer. The hearings were a travesty.)

    July 19, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. BILL, WI

    The only senator that is talking about race or racist language is Senator Leahy.

    July 19, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  10. Brian

    There is no problem with bipartisan questioning of any Supreme Court justice nominee.

    However, the questions that are asked need to be both, intelligent and relevent to the matter at hand. Several of the questions asked by the Republicans were ridiculous and insulting to Judge Sotomayor, let alone to any African-American, Hispanic-American, or Asian-American nominee who may have sat before them.

    In the future, these US senators need to ask themselves, "Is this a question that I would even ask of myself? Secondly, many of the questions they asked are probably questions they need to ask of some of the senators of their own party that are currently embroiled in various scandals......Hypocrisy and double standards don't sit well with the American people right now.

    July 19, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. JOY

    Sessions has a past as a known RACIST, so he will never fail to label others. The GOP belabored the racist topic for three days and it left them looking like a big dirty sac

    July 19, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  12. Simmy

    Karine.....The term 'racist' is not 'overused.' It is used a lot because there's a lot of racism in this country, and the world......It seems that those who protest about the term are more than likely the ones exhibiting traits thereof (if you know what I mean)......If you were not a racist, Leahy's comments would've rolled off you like water from a duck's back....Reflect on the past campaign, and Palin's remarks that drew racially tinged crowds......Consider comments Rep. Pete King continues to make......There are too many to list.....But my point is that racism does exist.....The word continues to surface because much of its dna remains dormant and needs to be exposed.......Peace....

    July 19, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Biased

    Funny how Leahy takes offense when talking about the questions posed to his party's nominee but did he filibuster Miguel Estrada when that Hispanic was put up for a lower court position by the Bush admin.? Democrats didn't even let him have a vote because in leaked memos they were afraid he would be one step away from the SCOTUS. Take about racial politics if your own plate is clear! And how about Obama's campaign chairman saying he never saw Hillary crying for the black victims of Katrina and they should take that into consideration when they went to the polls? Don't talk about racism unless your own hands are clean. And maybe we should ask all democrats whether now any criticism towards obama or anyone else like Sotomayor are now considered racist? Seems if you disagree with them, that is what you are now branded.

    July 19, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. Keith in Austin

    Do any of you hypocritic liberals remember the Clarence Thomas hearings? The Democrats were a disgraceful at the time. Very remeniscent of the hatred spewed against Bush over the last 8.5 years. Enjoy your time now because your Party will implode in 2010 and 2012. Leahy is a typical example of partisan politics at its best. Don't put any credance is anything he ever says!

    July 19, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. Debbie in VA

    Joe is correct. Each side who make comments here are truly unenlightened. Both sides make excuses and then jump on the other side. I am embarrassed when I read the hate spewed by both left and right. You should all be ashamed. The whole world reads these responses. However, we are in deep trouble and none of you can see through your rose colored glasses.

    July 19, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  16. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    Wise Latinas and white men are all Caucasians, so how can that be a racial issue?

    It might be a sexist viewpoint, but not racist.

    July 19, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  17. barry in las vegas

    Leahy and the Democratic Party always play the racial card. His comments are a joke. He his party and his President are all about race politics.

    The Dems started out this nomination playing the race cards daring Replicans to vote against Sotomayor by saying if they did, it was because she was a latina women. That is racist.

    July 19, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  18. KizzyMae

    What about John King's assertion that the White House requested only certain questions are asked. Senator Leahy was quick to make that correction leaving John with egg on his face. This man is so in the tank for the Republicans. I see it more and more each week.

    July 19, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. Fan of Common Sense

    Hey Leahy, why don't you tell Sotomayor to stop the 'racial Judging?'

    This woman is a biggot. Appointing her to the court will be a huge mistake.

    July 19, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Thank you, Mr Leahy!

    Conservatives have historically used the "divide and conquer" technique of accusing those who worked for racial equality as, in fact, being racists themselves becasue of their focus on a particular minority's plight, presumably at the expense of white people. They've also labeled feminists as "anti-men" and gays as "anti-Christian".

    Its ironic...whenever their fist-firm lock on power is threatened conservative, straight, white, Christian men always claim that THEY, in fact, are the victims of bigotry. However, when they make decisions that ensure their own positions of power – regardless of how racist, sexist, or homophobic those decisions might be – it is chalked up as "objective".

    Its no wonder that Republicans are scared to death of a Latina on the Supreme Court – they should be.

    July 19, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  21. Chris

    You can't say that this woman is not a racist. She's as much for her race as anyone is for theirs.

    July 19, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. A little sad

    Susan from W Kentucky July 19th, 2009 12:54 pm ET

    "I agree with Leahy. After hearing the comments made by both of my Kentucky Senators…replaced by Senators who actually represent the will of the people in this State."

    Susan from S Illinois July 19th, 2009 12:51 pm ET

    "I agree with Leahy. After hearing the comments hade by both of my Kentucky Senators…replaced by Senators who actually represent the will of the people in this State."

    I hate it when people I agree wth are so blatantly just trolls. It hurts the credibility of their argument.

    July 19, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. Susan (Michigan)

    So the Republicans are not racist, but they are happy to insinuate that Sotomayor is, and that Obama is. Hmmm, methinks they protest too much..
    And just how and when did Obama use race last fall to his advantage? Oh I know...blacks voted for him so he must be racist. Guess what, white males voted for Sarah because she looked good in those tight skirts and heels..are they sexist? (No, just suckers for a wink and a smile, I guess.)
    The questioning of the judge was stupid because they went after her for a phrase in a speech, and admitted that her rulings, what counts after all, have been generally above reproach. White Republican men cannot stomach an intelligent woman (thus their overwhelming support of Palin) in any position of authority. Hillary would have had trouble winning because even Democratic men are threatened by her knowledge and abilities. Pat Robertson had it right....there is a thought process out there that white MEN built this country, and so have to remain in charge of everything or the world as we know it will end. And about time!

    July 19, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  24. R in Maine

    Jeff Sessions is a racist. He just wants to suggest that everyone is just like him. The Repub members are disgusting. He is also a half wit. He is not qualified to sit in judgment on an intelligent and experienced Latina, or anybody else. No wonder he could not get to first base in his hearings. He thinks that making truly outrageous allegations will give him good cover.

    July 19, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  25. Denise....Boardman, Ohio

    What are white men afraid of??? Most of the racist comments made on these boards are made by white men....I listen to C-SPAN alot and most of the racist HOGWASH that is espoused on their call-in show, the negative comments, are made by angry white men...what are YOU men afraid of....You are responsible for MOST of this Nations ills, most of the wars that are being fought around the world, and most of the World's death and destruction....it should be the people of the world that despise all of you, instead of YOU despising the rest of the world....and that includes white women, Black people, Latinos, Chinese, Muslims, Indians, children, and any other form of the human species....White men have made their bed...at least SOME of you have....and it seems that 95% of white (racist) men live and strive in the Republican Party.....what a waste of time and intellect....

    July 19, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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