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. Ben

    I sat watching the Sotomayor hearings, glued to my set as nearly every Republican let racially insensitive crap fly out of their mouths.
    The GOP should invest in a time travel machine so they can all go back to the 1950's like they want.

    July 19, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. Richard Rodriguez

    Debby, NJ.
    You are right on.

    July 19, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. jennifer

    Democratic Senator Boxer sure did sound racist talking to Harry Alford the other day. And I read many racist posts by Democrats during the primaries so stop being hypocrites.

    July 19, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. Ancient Texan

    From the time the campaign started, until the present, the only people using the race card is the Democrats. If anyone dares to disagree, or question anything the Libs say, their only retort is "you are a racist". Let it rest. LARRY..you are not now and have never been a Republican. It just sounds good to say you once were. The Republicans will be back very, very soon. Barack Obama and his out of control spending and control agenda is the best recruiter of new Republican and Independent voters.

    July 19, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. Kregg

    Susan from Kentucky... dont flater yourself. I'm a proud Blue Grass Kentuckian myself and never been stronger for Mr McConnell and Mr Bunning. To think they won't get back in just shows how displaced and sheltered you are in this state.

    How long has Mitch been in and keeps getting more popular each time???

    McConnell is one of the few who has the backbone to stand up against those socialists in Washington right now. McConnell has more respect then you will ever know, which shows how blind you are to the subject.

    July 19, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. dave

    Before you reply to forums like this, please understand the topic! While there are some really good comments, there are many that just leave you searching for their meaning.. I see many defend their side, liberal or conservative, in the way that is tearing America apart. What is seen today as radical right was the radical left only eight months ago! Lets all just stop for a minute and understand what is at stake and apply some common logic when discussing politics. DB in NC

    July 19, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. Marc

    Mike, Syracuse, NY – OK, then start checking if there is any way to remove the 3 Justices that agreed with her on that ruling from the SCOTUS. There should be 4, but one of them is already retiring and is about to be substituted by her, regardless of any excuse you and the others that can't stand the fact that she's not WASP material might come up with.

    July 19, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  8. bimmer

    Leahy should stope lecturing on racial politics to amke his poltical point.

    July 19, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. Ted Tartaglia

    Sessions' nominiation for a judgeship was rejected by a Republic Senate Judiciary Committee because they considered him a racist. I guess Sessions has forgotten about that.

    Sessions and a number of other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are acting like a bunch of juvenile bullys. They should be ashamed of themselves. What a bunch of hypocrites!

    July 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. gary

    this woman is a racist thank god us republicans will still have the majority on the supreme court, god bless america and liberals leave the country if you do not like it, i am a republican and have got my son to be a republican, he sees the evil ways of liberals

    July 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Eileen

    Dems want to use the race card everytime it benefits them. They don't like it when they are called out on reverse racism. There are better choices then Sotomayor for a justice and Obama as president. Welcome to the third world.

    July 19, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. Hey all you racist Republicans!

    The US is probably going to be a black-majority nation within a few decades. I think it's time to start talking nice.

    July 19, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. JoJo

    Her nomination to the supreme court was based on a statement where she compared herself to a "wise Latina" and a white man. Not a black one. That was racist comment as far whites are concerned. And would have been a racist comment as far as blacks were concerned, if she has chosen the word black. She used color in her comments, and she wasn't about to paint the white house walls. She will be confirmed. The only thing I am asking, is I hope she does something with her hair, it looks like she never wash it.

    July 19, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Chris

    It seems interesting to me that Senator Leahy used the words 'racial politics', since it has been made quite clear that the Sotomayor nomination was itself used to corner the Hispanic vote for the Democrats. This doesn't mean she is unqualified, in my opinion, I think she is more than competent for the SC. Still, it doesn't mean that the Republicans are the only ones playing 'racial politics.' Her ethnic group may have been one of many factors, but to deny that it separated her from other EQUALLY (not more) qualified candidates, making her the most attractive choice, is a fool's errand. There is nothing particularly wrong with that, but it still qualifies as 'racial politics.' Perhaps if Mr. Leahy had said the GOP was being outwardly racist, his argument would be more coherent, albeit significantly more politically costly than simple hypocrisy.

    July 19, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. Sheri

    To Dave C in NJ: Spot on!

    July 19, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Jim, Boston

    We just finished a presidential election where all we heard from Democrats was about race. The first African American this, decended from slaves, etc. Once again the media enabled double standard the Democrats are allowed to play.

    July 19, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  17. Ted

    The Republican party has a lot of problems and its hypocrisy and hate are among the major ones. They need to realize that hispanics and blacks are rising in prominence in our country and the day that the rich white guy could rule everything is ending. The party of NO is becoming irrelevant and will stay that way until they integrate their party.

    The GOP just can't get over that they lost in November and they have not done the deep thinking to figure out why.

    July 19, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  18. Tracy, Syracuse, NY

    Judge Sotomayor stated during her confirmation hearings that the decision against the New Haven fire department was based on legal precedence. That is what judges do...interpret the law and follow precedence. Don't be so quick to call racism, unless you full understand how she came to a decision on that matter. She explained it ver well during her confirmaiton hearings.

    July 19, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. Jack, MA

    I'm continuously amazed at the stupidity and lack of historical and political understanding by the bloggers on CNN. While I infrequent the site (they provide ease of use, but a horribly one sided slant), I leave every time depressed at the idiocy of the American people and how they can't think for themselves and only listen (god forbid they actually read anything) the mass media.

    It's a legitimate question people...bigotry is not one way. Affirmative action is by itself a form of discrimination... judge by character, not race– period. While AA had its place in history, it is an outmoded concept that creates more divides that it rectifies.

    July 19, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. Dianna

    Forget about racism and let us take a closer look at these many corrupt politicians.
    A lot of them have been found out to be Tax dodgers ,cheaters and having been involved in many shady deals.
    Where they held accountable and asked to resign , no not at all , they are still sitting on commitees and carry on with their selfserving and no one can touch me attitude.
    Where is the outrage and shouldn't you expect better from elected Public Servants.

    July 19, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. The Mamba

    Most people know what's going on here: The republicans have absolutely nothing to offer on this or any issue, so they obstruct, obfuscate, and call names. Pitiful.

    July 19, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  22. Pat, NJ

    This guy is living in a wonderland. He does not know what is going on. Do not bring racism now. democrats have been racist all along including Barack Obama, the messiah. We cannot touch him because he is black. Besides, do you know that there is Muslim conference taking place in Barack's place in Chicago who are actually relevant to Al Qaeda. Barack Hussein Obama thinks that he has sympathy from Muslims and we are safe. Nobody is bothered with this but we do not want another 9/11. Patrick Lehy is a moron and so also Barack Obama.

    July 19, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. Javier Maldonado

    Discrimination????? The constitution says that we are all created equal right....But this nation TOLERATES that over 5 million AMERICAN CITIZENS are DENIED the right to vote for the office of the president of the USA, but are OBLIGATED to go and die in wars that the same president will oder them to go to...Ask Judge Sotomayors family that lives in Puerto Rico, how it feels....

    Equality...what an illusion......

    July 19, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Ms. Johnson, Pearland,Texas

    John King should have felt right at home with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, they have so much in common.

    July 19, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. Beantown Bully

    The republicans always want to appeal to the worst side of human personality. Their "pointed" and "veiled" questions did nothing but exemplify, you are a minority first and foremost, then we consider your accomplishments. Sessions is unreal and should be impeached.

    July 19, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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