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. al/Alabama

    It's time for Sessions and those of his ilk to be replaced. The world is changing, and he and his brand of politics don't fit anymore.

    July 19, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. tee

    Please explain to me how Obama used racism. Giving a speech on race is not racism............It was truely needed at that time........How do you think the muslim americans felt during the elections..........Playing the fear card that Obama is a muslim did not come from the Dems......examples please.

    July 19, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  3. Robert

    "judget"? Eric, eric, eric... When you're trying to defend your party against the charge of racism, maybe its not a good idea to use sexist language while you're doing it. The term, I believe, is judge, for both men and women.

    July 19, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  4. Margo

    Well Pat, you already know she is wiser than you are because she is a Latina woman and she cannot distinguish between the words emminent and imminent so I guess that leaves you pretty far down on the totem pole in terms of judgement and smarts so you will have to excuse me if I chose to ignore your conclusions.

    July 19, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  5. Flipper

    Dems are accusing Republicans of "racial politics?"

    That's so cute and pathetic at the same time.

    July 19, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. Chris

    Hey Mike,

    That's not what the case was about. Read up a little and get less republican talking points.

    The case was about the limits of a city's power to change their hiring practice, nothing more nothing less. She wasn't ruling on "reverse racism" as so many of you put-upon white folk like to repeat.

    If a city is afraid they are going to get sued because of their hiring practice, can they, or can they not change those hiring practices? That's it. That's all she ruled on.

    July 19, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. Hellokitti

    Republicans were so concerned with the cool ,analytical and very intelligent Sotomayor's possible capacity for "empathy", even while they rely on our "empathy" to absolve Governor Sanford's maudlin and emotional affair with a "soulmate", his derelection of duty, and his damp and weepy reconciliation with his God and maybe his wife.

    July 19, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. Big Bri

    One party government is the goal here and the Dems will say and do ANYTHING to stay at the feeding trough. Senator Lehey is a race-baiter, appealing to the lowest common denominator. He’s a schoolyard bully who enjoys throwing bombs and lighting fires, only to watch the lefty loons pile out of the woodwork. Snap out of your comas before it’s too late!

    July 19, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  9. ScottyD

    "I am deeply troubled" is the quote that Sessions on and on and on kept repeating during the hearings. I believe that a majority of Americans, who turned into the sessions lead by Sessions should be "deeply troubled" by the hypocrisy that this leader of the Republican party continued to pronounce. There may be a place for this type of politics in America – mostly because our system does allow dissenting and all views to be heard (a good thing among the world's political systems). However, the more and more key Republican leaders keep talking true nonsense, the longer and longer Democrats and non-Republicans will continue to remain in power. I am quite glad that I do not live in the jurisdication for which Sessions would have been my elected leader. Quite glad at that.

    July 19, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. R in Maine

    Finally someone judging the GOP on the garbage that they try to present as factual record when it is really all lies, and should be addressed as such.

    July 19, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. AncientRiver, New Mexico

    The new racism: If you don't think like a white male republican, you are a racist.

    July 19, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  12. Pat

    It's interesting to see that, yet again, people are blind to their own bias. Sessions and the rest of the GOP seem to have no problem with the older white male bias that has dominated the US Supreme court for the last couple of centuries. It is sad to see what used to be a great party stoop to the level of inflaming Joe the plumber types with the idea that the only reason they can't get ahead is because of women and minorities.

    July 19, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. Mike Dargan

    Every time that Leahy calls Sessions a bigot, Sessions gets more votes in Alabama.

    July 19, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  14. tee

    Please explain how President Obama used Racism.............examples please.

    July 19, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Cliff

    Larry, like most libs, has no idea.
    She should NOT be appointed to the Surpreme Court because her track record shows:

    HER 'FEELINGS OR DESIRES" over the constitution.
    She is racist, socialist and not fit for our highest court!

    Even with these to be know the libs continue to drink at the fount of Obama the muslim. How sad!
    Got health care?

    July 19, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  16. Kris in AL


    Give me a break. This guy crucified Alito, Roberts, Bork, etc etc. etc.

    He is a HYPOCRITE!

    July 19, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  17. Brian

    Is there anybody left in the Republican party that isn't a racist? The party has gone south in so many ways. I used to belong to it when they stood for something other than waving the stars and bars and cross burning.

    Excuse me, I left out a few. There is that gun crowd who, like Jacob Schaffer of Fayettesville Tennesee, think the second amendment gives them the right to kill their wife, kids and in-laws. After all, you're not a crook until you pull the trigger, right Republicans? And once you pull the trigger, why stop? After all, putting him to death will bring them all back. And it serves his wife right for not being armed at the dinner table, right? I mean if she can't smell an ambush from her husband coming, what kind of American is she?

    For the love of G. W. Bush, eh?

    July 19, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  18. Alan

    Ridiculous. At least the Republicans didn't make anyone cry. Remember that....Asking relevant questions is what the American people want.

    July 19, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Joeanne

    I am a black hispanic – and I felt that her statements about "...then a white male" was appalling. If we hispanics and blacks want to lift ourselves up, we have to stop with this double standard of speak. My parents always said, "hold yourself up to a higher standard and never be a victim and people will see not your color but your accomplishments." Sotomayors' comments were racially motivated and anyone who doesn't hear or see that are fooling themselves. I am ashamed of her – she does not represent ALL latina females. RN from MD

    July 19, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. Ian Ramirez

    Obama didnt play the race card, he faced it straight on(his speech on race in philadelphia is an example) he was responding to the threats and racial slurs, and unjust mudslinging by people at the mccain-palin rallys. You want good examples of good ol racism, refer to the people that attended these rallys that were screaming out "lynch him" and calling him a "terrorist".

    July 19, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. Liz in DC

    There were some very insensitive questions and comments made that, if you substituted an African American equivalent, we would deem very racist.

    In addition, some of the comments about her temperament were sexist.

    Why is it still okay in 2009 to be racist towards latinos and sexist towards women?

    July 19, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  22. Watcher, UT

    ...And I thought most politicians were different here in the U.S. but there's not much difference between them and politicians in 2nd and 3rd world countries... of course, is not all of them but sadly for all of us, this ones let themselves to be noticed... 🙁

    July 19, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  23. cheryl

    don't we all realizeevery thing is now considerd racial.congress must stop bickering and get down to real business2?we do not realize its our money thy waste every day.we are what is considered lower middle class wecan't pay all our bills but are not elegible for any aid.stop arguring over this judge and get to work!

    July 19, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. Barbara

    I admonish EVERYBODY TO GET A DICTIONARY AND READ THE DEFINIONT FOR "RACIST" and RACISM"!!! I'm a certified English and Language Arts Teacher and was trained by the best to RESEARCH FIRST to get my facts crystal clear before making blanket or any type of statements. I am also certified in Social Studies, Early Childhood, and Middle School Education and have an earned Masters in Education Administration and Supervision. Remember also, it it far better to allow people to believe you to be dumb and ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!! Go forth and educate yourselves. INSTILL THIS CONCEPT IN YOUR CHILDREN. Maybe then America will return to the highest levels of educational ranking in the world as before. For your homework assignment ladies and gentlemen: Research the United States' current standing as it pertains to quality of Education. – Miss Barbara, M.Ed.

    July 19, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. red33,cedar rapids, ia

    Speaking of racial politics, apparently it is quite alright if the 'whites' get picked on, and I cannot see in these interviews where race is a factor, and believe that Leahy is just bringing it up because he is trying to stir up
    trouble when it just isn't true. I don't know how you 'good' liberals can possibly defend this behavior from him.
    Apparently, it is 'racial' to even ask SS any questions that might 'offend'; I notice she is pretty good, like all libs, in not giving answers, but dodging, like the liberals do, rather than give a direct reply, when asked 'point blank'.

    July 19, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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