White House: Sotomayor Used Poor Choice of Words in ‘Latina Woman’ Comment
May 29, 2009 - 5:56 PMThe Obama administration on Friday continued to defend Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's statement 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," while also firing back at her critics.
“I think if she had the speech to do all over again, I think she’d change that wording,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in reference to the 2001 speech at the University of California, Berkley School of Law, where Sotomayor made the comment.
Toward the end of the White House briefing, when a reporter asked Gibbs how he knows Sotomayor would have used different words, Gibbs said, “Discussions with people. Thanks guys.”
Gibbs then tried to leave the briefing, but a reporter asked about discussions with whom, and Gibbs said, “People who have talked to her.”
Earlier, Gibbs tried to explain the comment, saying that Sotomayor simply meant her life experience would guide her.
He went on to paraphrase Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who said in his confirmation hearing that when it came to cases before him involving immigrants, he could not help but think of his grandparents, who were immigrants.
Also, Gibbs referenced a statement by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said during a case regarding the strip search of a 13-year-old girl that other justices do not understand what it is like to be a 13-year-old girl.
Concerning Sotomayor, Gibbs said: “I’ve not talked to her specifically. I think she would say her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making a point that personal experience is relevant to the process of judging; that your personal experiences have a tendency to make you aware of certain facts and certain cases, and on a court that is collegial, it will help others wrestling with the facts of the cases.”
Gibbs criticized former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, who this week said Sotomayor’s comment was racist.
On Friday, Limbaugh said the question should be, “How can a president nominate such a candidate and how can a party get behind such a candidate? That’s what would be asked if someone were foolish enough to nominate David Duke.”
Duke is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and ran unsuccessfully for various political offices in the early 1990s.
Gibbs responded to Limbaugh.
“I don’t think you have to be the nominee to find what was said today offensive,” Gibbs said. “Conservatives and Republican leaders over the past 24 hours specifically addressed comments by people like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. It’s very hard to quantify the outrage of being compared to somebody who used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”