Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich this morning backed away from calling U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a “racist,” saying his own language was perhaps “too strong and too direct.”
Gingrich helped set off a stir of Republican protest with a series of Twitter messages from Europe last week, including this one: “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”
The former Georgia congressman was reacting to this quote from Sotomayor, made during a 2001 speech: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
Gingrich posted the following today on the web site for Human Events, a conservative publication:
My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. 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).
So it is to her words — the ones quoted above and others — to which we should turn, for they show that the issue here is not racial identity politics. Sotomayor’s words reveal a betrayal of a fundamental principle of the American system — that everyone is equal before the law.
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