The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Supreme Court

Gingrich Walks Back 'Racist' Charge

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, pictured during a visit to Capitol Hill in Washington. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich today walked back his Twitter comment that Obama Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor was a "racist," saying, "The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person."

"White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw," Gingrich had Tweeted on May 27 -- a remark that has become a flashpoint for criticism of conservative efforts to undermine the standing of a nominee who seems likely to be confirmed.

Writing today in Human Events, Gingrich sought to retract that remark while continuing to press his case against Sotomayor's legal thinking as overly reliant on identity politics.

"Shortly after President Obama nominated her to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, I read Judge Sonia Sotomayor's now famous words," he wrote of the passage in a 2001 speech by Sotomayor that, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

"My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct," Gingrich continued. "The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice.

"With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted)."

Gingrich goes on to link to Sotomayor's speech and ask readers, "see if you agree with those respected legal scholars who have concluded that the speech as a whole isn't as damaging as the Judge's 'wise Latina' comment -- it's worse." And he decries her ruling in the Ricci case involving New Hampshire firefighters, calling it a clear example of "the injustice that results from judging Americans as members of groups and not as individuals."

Posted at 10:59 AM ET on Jun 3, 2009  | Category:  Supreme Court
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If he dared, Mr. Gingrich might actually name the "respected legal scholars" to whom he refers. But his "scholars" link to an opinion piece by Chicago Tribune Editorial writer Steve Chapman, who cites no legal scholars himself, doesn't rate. Chapman's decidedly unscholarly article focuses only on Sotomayor's speech, parsing like mad, straining to make his case without any review of her judicial record to show that it supports his (and Gingrich's) disingenuous contentions.

Sotomayor's record apparently doesn't support Gingrich's apparent lies and distortions. For the record, see:

SCOTUSBlog, where Tom Goldstein actually *did* review Sotomayor's judicial rulings:

He concludes: “In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.) She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.”

A recent Washington Post column reviews more of Sotomayor's record at:

Posted by: NowIsTheTime | June 4, 2009 10:24 AM

Dear Newt:

I just drove across America. I was made proud of who we are. I was welcomed by friendly people everywhere. By a Navajo man in Gallup, New Mexico and by a trucker from St. Louis, Missouri. In Memphis we were welcomed by a small business owner in a place that doesn't see a lot of white people. I was even rescued from a break down in New Jersey.

I was on the road, just a passing stranger and I was helped and greeted by people I didn't even know. I met fine people everywhere I went. Helpful people, good people who offered their famous hospitality and kind words to me.

Our people are good and generous and proud of who they are and the work they do. Our people are tired of being told that we're divided and down and that we can't make it together.

And our people all said the same thing: "The media sucks".

We Americans have a lot of work to do. We're busy doing our jobs and we just want to be left alone. Try and scare us with your nonsense and we'll only react with a smile and invite the stranger to come on in.

Mr Gingrich when I look at you in the media I see the paranoid "crazy uncle" Newt. And I wonder what the hell you think you're doing.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | June 4, 2009 12:02 AM

Watch Funny Videos I think it was wrong what he said.

Posted by: roverfind | June 3, 2009 9:14 PM

At least Newt Gingrich is transparent, and consistent.

Newt is political to the core. We have to assume that he got some fierce pushback on his previous inflammatory remarks regarding prospectively our first Latina justice.

It is hard to believe that anyone is listening to Newt beyond the crazy right-wing echo chamber of the GOP anyway.

Let's hope that Newt will do the country a favor and pass on seeking public office in the future.

Posted by: jjenkinsphd | June 3, 2009 4:28 PM

From your article:
Gingrich goes on to link to Sotomayor's speech and ask readers, "see if you agree with those respected legal scholars who have concluded that the speech as a whole isn't as damaging as the Judge's 'wise Latina' comment -- it's worse."

Gingrich's link for "those respected legal scholars" is a piece by Steve Chapman, a member of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board ... is that what he means by "respected legal scholar"? The Chapman piece is rhetorically off-the-wall and clearly agenda-driven ... hardly a scholarly piece. I'd love to see a legitimate scholarly analysis and rebuttal of Sotomayor's speech, but Mr. Gingrinch hasn't supplied it.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | June 3, 2009 3:06 PM

The Ricci case did not involve New Hampshire firefighters.

New Haven is located in Connecticut, according to my map.

Posted by: newengland1 | June 3, 2009 12:42 PM

God forbid that Sotomayor follow legal precident instead of her own personal inclinations! The GOP needs to decide if they want a jurist who follows the law despite possibly disagreeing with it or one who decides what is "right" based on their own personal preferrances. The way Newt talks you'd think Sotomayor dismissed the law and refused to hear the appeal simply because she hates White Guys.

I don't like the Ricci finding any more than I liked the Kelo verdict...but both are consistant with settled case law.

Posted by: WilyArmadilla | June 3, 2009 12:28 PM

The Moving Finger tweets; and, having twit,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Posted by: slr-me | June 3, 2009 12:02 PM


How about taking up the cause of libertarianism and personal freedom -- from covert big government abuse of power?

Case in point...



The real threat to liberty is at the "micro" level, in YOUR hometown, at YOUR police and fire stations, on YOUR street -- a vigilante "citizen corps" army that implants GPS tracking devices to stalk and persecute unjustly "targeted" citizens and their families...

...and uses hi-tech microwave radiation "directed energy weapons" to degrade the minds and bodies of their prey.

Team Obama and naive and distracted mainstream media, now hear this:

This American Gestapo is funded and overseen by secretive federal security/military/intel agencies and their usurping local operatives.

Team Obama: THIS is the real threat to freedom in America -- and to YOUR administration:

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | June 3, 2009 11:23 AM

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