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. gl, Pittsburgh

    July 19th, 2009 12:37 pm ET

    The Repug's are racist, and they know it…the great old men party is over!

    July 19, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  2. Susan (Michigan)

    Mike, Syracuse, NY July 19th, 2009 12:52 pm ET

    When her record includes obviously racially motivated decisions (ie the New Haven firefighter case) it is certainly a valid line of questioning."

    What if NONE of the white firefighters had passed the same exam? Would it be OK with you then that the city of New Haven decided to pull the results and retest? This was not a racial case...it was a question of supporting the city's decision, which she did.

    July 19, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. Bill from South Jersey

    Sixty years ago Richard Nixon established the Republican practice of calling opponents communists. We shouldn't be too surprised to find his successors updating the label for our own times. The practice was reprehensible then, and remains so now.

    I have never been a Republican, but there was a time when I at least respected them as honorable people with a different point of view. At that time they were constructive and reasonable, and they represented an important part of the American political dialog. That time for me is long past.

    July 19, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    Most of the Republicans seem, to me at least, to be a bit "racist AND discriminatory" and when you look at the make up of the Jucidiary "Commitee"....not one black, hispanic, asian, American Indian, or female in the bunch. Shame on Arizona's Jon Kyle also.

    July 19, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Carole

    Here! Here! Well said Senator Leahy. Obama is a genuis. He knows how racist they are. They only were being theirselves.

    They were riding this respectable lady about what SHE said? Then they make comments like 'You got some splainin to do.'; 'We'll talk about that crack cocain thang.'; 'you voted against but another Puerto Rican voted for.'. They shot themselves in the butt as far as I saw.

    Republican Party = Male, Pale and Stale (Racist White Men)

    July 19, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  6. Pat in IL

    Why is anybody even listening to Gingrich and Sessions? They're Rush Limbaugh ditto heads. Let's talk about real issues, not just hear exaggerated hate sound bites from idiots.

    July 19, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Nathan,

    Racism is all the GOP has left to stir their core followers.

    July 19, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. Scott, Tucson

    Leahy...go do that thing that Dick Cheney told you to do the other year.

    July 19, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  9. LeJon

    What Republicans and others fail to understand or conveniently cast aside is that Judge Sotomayor is Hispanic, therefore, her RACE is WHITE! There is no such thing as a Hispanic race, just check the birth certificates with your State Board of Health or County Clerk, they'll tell you. It is an ethnicity. So when they throw the race card into this, know and understand that as a White person, Sotomayor would be hard- pressed to condemn her own RACE.

    July 19, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  10. gl, Pittsburgh

    Eric Holder call all of us out to discuss racist becasue he know it is a hot topic that needs to be discussed.

    July 19, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  11. Marcia

    Oh yes, it's racist to bring up her preference for latinos. It's racist to bring up the cases that were overturned because of her preference to have latinos in positions for which they didn't qualify. Oh yes, it certainly is racist. For all you who feel that she is so fair, I certainly hope that you are latino if you have to appear in her court.

    July 19, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. Fla.


    I could not agree more. Too many in my former GOP have used these challenging times to play political games and pander to a xenophobic base to further their divisive platform on the American people–these actions reprehensible.

    Sadly, Sen. Sessions is not being honest here, considering Republican de-facto leader, Rush Limbaugh, projected racist bigotry while ignoring his own racist politics. Enough.

    July 19, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. Kajun

    Seeing as everyone is making up stuff here: Obama isn't really and African American....I have proof...he is an Anti-American. Race does not have anything to do with anything, there are good and bad people of every race...GET REAL...it is only an issue with those who are forwarding a soialist agenda.

    July 19, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. bill

    I'm from Alabama, and Jeff Sessions is an embarrassment to himself and to the state of Alabama.

    July 19, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  15. c medina

    John King is not objective at all, he is definitely a
    Republican and most of his comments are against
    the Democrat which he is desperately trying to hide.
    Even we Canadians can see throught this guy.
    Wake up CNN!!!

    July 19, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  16. Notfooled

    Sessions, since I don't respect you, I won't call you senator sessions.

    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!!

    July 19, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Shingo

    Sessions proved he is prejudice BEFORE the hearings. He said outright that he would not vote for Sotomayor. Only Sessions really knows his reason for that. It could be because his stance on civil rights is poor anyway. But to accuse Sotomayor of bias when Sessions already had pre-judged Sotomayor is more than ironic.

    July 19, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Notfooled

    There is no hiding a racist. A Racist is a racist is a racist. PERIOD!!

    July 19, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  19. Earl in FL

    It is incredible to me that Sotomayor had to win "conservative" approval at all. The Democrats won the most sweeping victories in decades and hold 60 Senate seats. The "ideas" of Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes are discredited.

    Sotomayor resembled a long-abused hound cowering before its masters. After Graham read aloud anonymous criticisms of her, she should have read back the same kind of criticisms of him. The sight of the racist Sessions (rejected for judgeship by the same commitee he now sits on) browbeating her about racism was absurd. It is as if the plantation owners detect a rumbling among their human holdings and, fearing retribution, want to squelch it.

    July 19, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. Manny BLUM, Bernalillo


    You forget to add that another member of the 3-member panel of the appeals court and 4 of the 9 mmbers of the Supteme agreed with her position , meaning that of a total of 50% of the involved justices did so!

    And all were lily white!!!

    July 19, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  21. BJC

    The demorats are just angry that the republicans are going to confirm Sotomayor and not fight it as they had wished. Now they have nothing left but to try and make an issue out of anything. Sotomayor was questioned and last time I checked I thought that was suppose to happen when we appoint someone to a court for LIFE? Liberal's didn't get the big bru ha ha they wanted.

    July 19, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. laurence

    enjoy it while it last because it will all be over soon enough. "only the pure in heart will see God!" the dems have their share of racist: however, the repugs are the embodiment of the word. given the fact that even the blacks in the repugs party don't like minorities being minorities themselves should tell you all you need to know. the ole' white boy club in the senate and the house are staging a major political attack by race baiting in an attempt to turn all (whites) against minorities thus regaining political power through their majority in the population. these fellows are about to lose their minds and get a little closer to the edge everyday 'that black man' is in theit 'white house'. they can try and speak subtlely all they want it dosen't change a thing. they think this is their country alone and they should be the ones calling the shots, even though they took this land from the only 'true americans', the american indians.

    July 19, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. moses

    I love it. The dems harp on how this woman is the first Latino to be concidered for the court, she blathers about how her ethnic background makes her able to reach a better conclusion than a white man, and everyone else is playing the race card? Give me a break folks, you can't have it both ways.

    July 19, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  24. James

    You morons think that O-bummers policies of spending trillions are going to solve all of the problems. When the dollar collapses and these fools don't have a solution the GOP will regain power. They have been counted out many times before and always come back strong. Sotomayor is a racist period. If she says something that i can't say the reciprocal of as a white man then it is racist and not different just because she is a minority. Wise Latina? I was married to a latina that wanted to have a herd of kids we couldn't afford. No wonder latins side with democrats. They need this to be a socialism because that can't make rational decisions about family size/

    July 19, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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