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. cf

    When are we going to learn, in this country, that Republicans are the most bigoted in the world, and think that they are all lilly-white country club members with better insight on everything than the rest of the world. We simply need to stop talking to them and, eventually, they might all die off for lack of oxygen or interaction.

    Republicans are out for their own pocketbooks and the heck with everything and everyone else. If a Republican tells her cares about you... he lied.

    July 19, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. Keven Bennett

    Southern Strategy is an open secret. Even you GOPers know it. I've watched it for 35 years, and I agree with Leahy.

    It's 2009. Put a lid on it, already!

    July 19, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Mike TX

    Silly Repubs, only the Dems can play the race card when they need to make a point!

    July 19, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  4. Angel

    What we witnessed during the Sotomayor hearings was a group of old southern white men desperately trying to hang on to the past. Sessions and Graham were right out "Mississippi Burning".

    July 19, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. pam

    Look at the past Supreme Court nominations. How can a Democrat ever raise the racial card on the questioning of a Supreme Court nominee after the Clarence Thomas circus. How do they get away with outrageous statements like these?

    July 19, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  6. FREE& & THiNKING in Las Vegas

    The close-minded types who don't understand something often resort to belittling, criticizing, and name calling. You might think this problem only lies with the lower-middle-class redneck types, but they're the unwashed republicans that make up the majority of the party. Unlike the intellectual conservative, who doesn't wave a flag around and scream about somebody taking away his guns, they will leave religion to the psychos and fanatics. However, there are very few of them left. Colin Powell and Ted Roosevelt come to mind. As you can see, not many. The loud mouthed unwashed will scream and yell and call them names, like RINOS.

    July 19, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. Keith, CO

    A SMALL minority of all races are bigots but most Republicans are just in the pockets of big business. There concerned Sotomayor may favor the small individuals over big business. They need to create controversy to divert attention of average Americans away from realizing that there priority's rest with Corporations. Which would not be a vary Popular platform.

    Calling all Republicans racist is not fair.

    July 19, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. Denna

    Oh good grief. A Latina says she could, from her experiences, make a better decision than a white man and the Republicans become a bunch of drama queens. Considering the guff other non-white male Americans and women have suffered at the hands of white males over the history of this country, you would think these babies would take this with more grace. No a white man can't say the same thing because white males have been a thorn in the side of other Americans for centuries. White women fared little better until the civil right movement and Affirmative Action. Let it go and let's move forward in this great country.

    July 19, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. 40 Years Wandering The Dessert

    Republicans make blantant and subtle race-based appeals to a subset of white people. They have for the past 40 years we are all just smart enought to see it for what it is.

    Old white GOP politicians will continue to do this. It's all they know.

    Asians, Latinos, Blacks, and some whites will always remember what these race-baiting politicians said, how they acted. I didn't live in South Carolina but I still remember Susan Smith, 20 years later. I didn't live in Boston but I still remember Charles Stuart. We don't forget GOP.

    The only way your are going to overcome your reputation is to stop race baiting and even then it will take a generation to purge it from our memories. Republicans will spend 20 years in the wilderness.

    July 19, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. kay

    It's truly time that Americans discuss racial predjudices more openly, also ethnic differences. We are all Americans...that said, Newt, you're a philandering scoundrel who has no place in this forum. Darryl, you're just dumb...and need to learn how to spell.

    July 19, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. Bob

    What do you say about a woman who throws out a test because too many people of one race past? She is a racist. New Haven mayor Destafano hired a racist covicted felon to be his fire commisioner who brought him votes. Why is it that the Democrates can be as bigoted as they want and still be considered equal rights advocates. Look up Rev Boise Kimber

    July 19, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. fideauxdon

    "This idiot, no this blooming idiot play racial, sex and all kinds of politics during all of Bush nomination hearings and now has the gall, the unmitigated liberal gall to make such statements. HYPOCRITE. He should go do what Cheney told him to do. Such a stupid, partisan, hypocritical yet typical liberal, It just make me puke."

    Gee, that added a lot to the dialogue.
    I don't know when the writer went to school, but it must have been before the Teachers taught that a subject and predicate must agree (Not: It just make me puke)...and I'm 72 years old!

    July 19, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Raul

    jeff session is a hipocrite !! i want CNN to Do a Story on him and bring up the fact about the Marion 3 lawsuit.. also that session was denied by his own republican the position to be in the supreme court by 9-1 because of racism!!!! i want to see cnn cover that story eh?

    July 19, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. Brian

    what is really concerning to me is not the comments that Judge Sotomayer made (if you listen/read the entire speech the comments are pretty innocuous), but rather the several judicial decisions she has made that have been overturned by the supreme court. Yes she has impecable credentials, but when it comes to rendering decisions based on the current interpretation of the constitution, the supreme court has sad several times that she has gotten it wrong.

    July 19, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. Ron

    Sessions is an embarrassment.

    Whoever would vote for that man is a lost cause.

    July 19, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. mark

    What's funny about joe's comment is that he calls the rest of us morons, except by using improper punctuation to do it.

    And that's why the people in power get away with everything.

    July 19, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. Roger


    The Republican party is over? You'll be begging for us in another year. Well, maybe you won't. You are from Jersey, you are too used to liberal entitlements. Get a freaking job.

    Dems play the race card ALL the time. They have been practicing racial identity politics forever, and CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, Huffpo, and CBS never calls them on it.

    Keep enjoying the ride Libs, your day is coming soon when you start begging for the 3rd Bush to run.

    Obama, and his ilk are a joke.

    July 19, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  18. mark

    one more thing. TOM is obviously a racist because he brought up race.

    July 19, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  19. IQ test required for all VOTERS!!!

    Race is all the old school repubs have left in their hat. They've demonstrated time and time again that theyre NOT a voice of the people but rather just pull up the tired political tactics theyve been using for decades to generate support.

    Theyre so deep in the special interest groups and corporations pockets that those are the only ones their speaking for today.

    July 19, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  20. Dave T

    Sessions is nothing more than a racist cracker and Graham ought to go hat in hand to Judge Sotomayor and apologize for the condescending and rude tone of his remarks. The world is leaving these guys behind and they can't stand it, they just can't stand it.

    July 19, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  21. Michael, Pensacola, FL

    Conservatives engaging in racial politics . . . . say it isn't so, no way! Let's not let 200 years of American History get in the way of their new and improved politics!

    July 19, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. Mark

    Since all Republicans seem to be racists according to this message board, that automatically makes all Democrats homosexual. Homocrats.


    July 19, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  23. alcatraz

    Latinos will vote up to 90 percent in favor of Obama in the next election if he decides to run again.
    That's called a smart politian, for nominating a Hispanic American to the Supreme Court. Latinos are 50 million, we will be 142 million by the year 2050, that's the Census Bureau.. the Republican Party is sealed to dissapeared, mark my words. It's a political party that refuses to change and understand the new demographic trend.
    Sorry GOP, RIP!!!!!

    July 19, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  24. MS Redhead

    Larry: I used to be a Republican, now I'm Democrat. I'll never vote for another Republican. They've shown their colors these past 9 months, when this country was in a state of panic. They're outstanding at pointing the finger….just too stupid and biggoted to come up with any solutions

    Just reverse that–I used to be a Democrat, but now I'm an Independent who will never vote for a Democrat. You and your idols–Obama, Pelosi and Reid–have shown your petty, tit-for-tat true colors as well, to the detriment of our country. According to you, any person who doesn't agree with you is either a bigot or a racist or BOTH, right? If I'm a racist today, YOU MADE ME ONE with your attitudes. The GOP may be known as the Party of NO, but you Democrats should be known as the POE–Party of Entitlement.

    July 19, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  25. Todd

    Ah well, white people are screwed again.

    July 19, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
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