Just a day after President Obama announced he was nominating appellate court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the battle over her confirmation has begun with former House speaker Newt Gingrich branding her a racist and saying she should withdraw.
The accusations are aimed at comments Sotomayor made during a 2001 lecture at the University of California-Berkeley. Referring to former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's saying that "a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases," Sotomayor said, "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."
On Wednesday afternoon, Gingrich wrote on Twitter: "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman' new racism is no better than old racism."
"White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw," Gingrich wrote.
"To understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care," Sotomayor said in 2001. "Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs advised that people involved in the debate should be careful with their language.
"I think we're satisfied that, when the people of America and the people of the Senate get a chance to look at more than just the blog of a former lawmaker... that they'll come to the same conclusion that the president did," Gibbs said. "I think when people get a chance to look at her record, I feel certain that partisan politics will... take a backseat to common sense and open-minded decisions based on a full examination of the record. And I think that's what every Supreme Court and every judicial nominee deserves."
Calling Sotomayor highly qualified and of keen intellect, Gibbs added: "I've heard a lot of people in the last couple of days... they've mentioned intellect. I'm not entirely sure where people that make that argument... what number they graduated in their class at Princeton, but my sense is it's not second."
Conservative pundit Coulter echoed Gingrich's sentiment on "Good Morning America" today, although she called only Sotomayor's words racist and did not specifically call for her to withdraw.
"It does a disservice to minorities -- to women and minorities -- that we are supposed to be empathizing for," Coulter said on "Good Morning America" today. "Saying that someone would decide a case differently... because she's a Latina, not a white male, that statement by definition is racist."