Gingrich backs off Sotomayor 'racist' label
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday he shouldn't have called Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a racist, but said he was still concerned that she would bring bias to her decisions.
In a letter to supporters, the Georgia Republican said that his words had been "perhaps too strong and direct" last week when he called Sotomayor a reverse "racist," based on a 2001 speech in which she said she hoped the rulings of a "wise Latina" would be better than those of a white male without similar experiences. Gingrich's remarks created a furor among Sotomayor's backers and caused problems for GOP figures who have been pushing to bring more diversity to the party.
Gingrich conceded that Sotomayor's rulings have "shown more caution and moderation" than her speeches and writings, but he said the 2001 comments "reveal a betrayal of a fundamental principle of the American system -- that everyone is equal before the law."
Sotomayor, 54, would be the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court.
Gingrich's reversal came as Sotomayor's supporters hit back against GOP criticism of her 2001 remarks and the notion that she would bring personal prejudice to rulings. They circulated a 1994 speech in which the judge made similar statements. Sotomayor disclosed the speech during the 1997 Senate debate over seating her on a federal appeals court, but no Republican publicly voiced concern about it at the time.
In that speech, Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion" than a wise man.