Gingrich Walks Back 'Racist' Charge
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
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