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. Ann

    when it comes to racial politics, there is no one like Obama. This guy used race to get elected so shut up Mr. Leahy.

    July 19, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  2. Peter

    The most qualified judge in the United States Of America " Satomayor"
    those opposing her should look hard on the mirrow and agree "Yes" she is better than many men wearing trousers!!! Long live the constitution, long live the supreme court. We need more satomayors on the bench!!

    July 19, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. Willy Brown

    She is th eone that brought race into this Lehy. But you will all get a free pass because democrats are the only ones who are racist and get away with it.

    July 19, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. Sean from Marin

    What Sessions and team are doing only works if people follow them. We already know the regional southern party (the former Republican party) will get voters like "southerncousin" – whose comments are right from the scriptures of Rush the Wrong. However, if we simply don't take the bait. If we don't allow these people back in the senate or the house, their old, southern, white male ways will fade away with the old Dodge. The more they talk the more they sound bankrupt too!

    July 19, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. JDB

    I agree with Leahy. Sessions is an idiot, and a racist. His performance was disgraceful. He couldn't even form a complete coherent sentence and he's questioning Sotomayors credibility?

    With the number of years she's spent on the bench, they wasted almost 2 days on the "wise Latina" comment. High school students would have done better research and asked more pertinent questions.

    They treated her like the Puerto Rican maid as opposed to a Supreme Court nominee. In doing so, their strategy failed. They didn't belittle Ms Sotomayor – they belittled themselves. It showed the still ugly face of the gop, and reinforced why their numbers are dwindling.

    July 19, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. Penguinn

    Sotomayor has been in agreement with her "conservative" colleagues in majority decisions something like 85 percent of the time. Contrast that with the record of Clarence Thomas, who now is coming down on the wrong side of 8-1 decisions on the SCOTUS! Who do you suppose is more out of touch?

    July 19, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. Stu in Las Vegas

    I notice only republicans on John Kings "State of the Union" I quess he must be a racist republican bigot as well !!

    Birds of a feather flock together and all !

    July 19, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. Robert, Miami, FL

    Seems that being a Republican these days is largely about being suspicious, angry and defensive. As a former Republican I have to say they've lost me with this tantrum they've been throwing since they lost the election. Something's wrong when there is that much rage around a topic.

    It's time to stop hiding behind all the bluster and get to work doing the country's business. Carry on a civil debate, don't veer off into this stuff appealing to emotion and fear and us-vs.-them.

    July 19, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  9. dave

    come on, people. we need to get over this "racists" crap. libs should be ashamed of themselves CONTINUALLY hurling this out. remember high school?......it's not what is truth just how loud you say it. TIME TO IGNORE THE (R) AND (D) AND TIME TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT COUNTS!!! this goes for both sides. a change is a comin' indeed.

    July 19, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  10. Hugo

    It is baffling how liberals can call a Republicans racists for stating the obvious biases that Judge Sotomayor has exhibited over her career. The questioning is a recall of her own words and her own actions evidencing her true feelings toward racial empathy that she is being questioned on. Anyone know how those two Black Panther idiots that got busted outside the voting precinct are doing? How about that poor (now retarded) Denny guy that those black thugs beat up in LA during the CA riots, or more lately what about the Jenna 6?

    Smells like HATE crimes to me....question should be is I wonder how Sotomayor would call them?

    July 19, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  11. Steve, Columbia SC

    Senator, questioning anyone's political or other affiliations is not racial, it's good due diligence.

    July 19, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  12. Tatianna

    Leahy should address Barbara Boxer condescension towards Mr Alford. Perhaps Holder, Jesse Jackson, Sharpton and Obama care to explain and/or englighten us if Boxer words to Alford qualifies her as a bigot. When are minorities going to wake up and understand the sinister nature of the leftists?

    July 19, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. Ken - OH

    Everyone knows she will be confirmed. The Republicans are drawing the line in the sand to make a point. They want to paint Sotomayor as very liberal "BUT" they'll let her in anyway. The advantage they hope to gain is by trying to block the next potential nominee. That way they can say when the time comes that it's not about politics and they'll point to voting for her as proof.

    No one should expect Sessions to have anything other than the utmost contempt for Sotomayor. Any look back into his history clearly shows his lack of concern for all humans that are not white.

    July 19, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. Nini

    Why don't you tell your president to stop Nominating Radical judges.

    She is not radical with all she has said and done but asking her tough questions and talk about FACTS is radical politics?

    Stop insulting our intelligence Mr. Leahy.

    July 19, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  15. Anthony

    Have the republicans learned anything yet, as for Sessions, he is and always will be a prejudice ignorant white male republican, who makes me ashamed to say I voted for Republicans. It's a good thing he is not our president or we'd be set back 100 years. Jeff get a grip on life this is why we lost the last two elections. these old line Republicans think they are better than anyone and can't stand together with main stream America.
    I always thought something was wrong with the Republican Party and he just confirms it.

    July 19, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  16. Henry Miller

    I'd be glad to "stop the racial politics" except that Sonia Sotomayor is very much an advocate of playing racial politics.

    July 19, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  17. Richard Rodriguez

    If all the black folks, be them specially from the south have no sense of what their peers went thru and still are, then I suggest they watch the movie, "Shinandoa" (hope I spelled it correctly) they would not be even close to be republicans, namely Michael Steel, the RCC. "republican commitee chairman", Ron Christie, republican analyst, and many other black men that are affilieated to their salve masters, if beyond comprehension. I see many black people in this party that ensalve them and put them thru all inimaginable hardships and still follow them. There is no imaginable reason for this unless they are, mathoquists???? that like to be misstreated and enjoy it.??
    I JUST CANNOT UNDESTESTAND IT, LEST COMPREHEND IT. From Puerto Rico with love, have a bueatyful day

    July 19, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. Zion

    I am a black conservative (not Republican) and I can't stand the race baiting that goes on between Democrats and Republicans. I wish that blacks would vote independent and put both parties out of business.

    July 19, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Deep Throat

    Let me see. An Afro-American president appoints a Hispanic to
    the Supreme Court who touts herself as a "wise Latina" and
    we're supposed to believe ONLY the Republicans are being race-
    driven? Leahy...where were you when your party tried to ambush
    an Afro-American named Clarence Thomas with an Afro-American
    named Anita Hill? On vacation? Your party knows how to play the race
    card. So don't play dumb. What goes around comes around, Leahy.

    July 19, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. Neil

    Sotomayor is the one that said she could make better choices than a white man. And not just once, but in 7 different speeches over several years in fact.

    So she should put her money where her racist mouth is.

    July 19, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. Reformed Republican

    So dixie rethuglicants are racists and bigots – This is news?

    July 19, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. annoyed

    What a big fuzz, about this "Wise Latina” comment.
    Every person would do a similar comment in a similar situation,
    unless you take this sentence out of context (in this case the context of her speech).
    She even apologized for what may have meant for some people (republicans) still reinstating what she said in that speech.

    Are republican, so insisting not to understand, even aware how much they are getting ridiculous ?

    July 19, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  23. Ulysses Carter

    When I was a youngster, my grandmother had a saying, ' hows the kettle talking bout the pot?" I'm from Oklahoma and my children r from Alabama. So i believe i"m qualified from life's expierences to offer alittle input into this subject. Republicans r once again coming with a very devisive, again Defisive issue to seperate us as a people against each other to make us loose our focus on issues that truly effect as a nation. This nation's MORAL AUTHORITY has been comprimised. High unemployment, no regulation on Wallstreet, everything that has come as a result of that, poor folks starving, middle class loosing their homes, WAR. There's alot of folks out here whose voices in WASH. ani't listening to. This is about more then RACE and i'm BLACK. This is about ya'l listening in WASH DC. listening. Accusing Pres. Obama's selection to the court of being a racist is bout like saying Clarence Thomas could shine Judge THORGOOD MARSHALL'S SHOES!!!! 0, theres that life's expeirence's i alluded to at the beginning of this conversation. God Bless OUR PRESIDENT and those listening and wil VOTE!

    July 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  24. Richard Rodriguez

    I just loved the comments of Pat Buchannan, of the Rachel Moddow show when she challenge him about Supreme Court Justice nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. He spew that Supreme Court Judges should all be white. His reasoning behind this bigotted, racist abbarration, was that the the Founding Fathers that wrote the Cosntitution were all white, hence, all Supreme Court Judges, should be all white. He is in the group of Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, John Bennet, Bill Ryelly of ABC, Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe and his sidekick, the lady I don't nor want to remember her name and many others that I have watche and heard over CNN, ABC and MSNBC, Ron Christie, and I have seen to my amazement Rev. Al Sharpton together with reps, like Mr. Boehener, and other republicans in news conferences, that make me wonder. If anything I believe that all black people in the USA, should be Democrats. But I can understand the envy, that they tried and did not succeed, because of their beligerant and unforgiving divisive nature of their speeches. unlike the unity speeches by our President Barack Obama. Again, with love from Puerto Rico, and have a nice day.

    July 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
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