Newt Gingrich on Twitter: Sonia Sotomayor 'Racist', Should 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."

Others disagree. Democratic strategist James Carville cited Justice Clarence Thomas, who like Sotomayor also has a rags-to-riches story, and has often discussed how his life experiences have shaped him.

VIDEO: Judge Sotomayors Bronx Tale
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"Experience is everything. You want richness and diversity on the Supreme Court," Carville said. "She has a life experience she brings."

'Never Lost Sight of Her Roots'

Sotomayor was raised in a public housing project by her mother, a nurse, after her father died when she was 9. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979, climbing her way up the judicial ranks, a far cry from her humble beginnings.

Sotomayor's friends say her Hispanic heritage -- her parents migrated to New York from Puerto Rico -- is an important part of the judge's life.

"She has never lost sight of her roots," said Nancy Gray, a friend of Sotomayor's.

For some of her critics, that's not enough.

"Why aren't Democrats choking up over Clarence Thomas or Miguel Estrada?" asked Coulter, referring to the 48-year-old Honduran-born Estrada, whose 2001 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. by President George W. Bush was filibustered by Democrats. "Why are we only supposed to weep when it's a liberal Hispanic or a liberal black?"

While Sotomayor -- who was appointed as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Manhattan by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 -- has a limited history of deciding hot-button issues, Republicans have seized on controversial comments she has made regarding race and the courts' role in policy making.

Conservatives are also taking aim at Sotomayor's recent decision in a reverse discrimination case. Sotomayor and two other judges ruled against white firefighters who argued they were passed over for promotion because of their race.

Some critics say the judges ignored constitutional issues in that case.

Republicans have also seized on comments Sotomayor made at a Duke University School of Law panel four years ago, saying these remarks show she is a liberal activist.

"All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with court of appeals experience, because it is, court of appeals is where policy is made," Sotomayor said then.

"And... I know this is on tape, and I should never say that, because we don't make law, I know. ... I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it," she added.

The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said the senate will give Sotomayor an opportunity to explain her statements and decisions that have raised questions, but called her comments "troubling."

"We need to inquire into that and give her a fair opportunity to explain it. But on its face, that's very troubling. A judge must submit themselves to the law and be faithful to the law and to serve under the law. They are not above the law. And I think it's further exacerbated by President Clinton's (sic) promise to find someone who will use empathy in making decisions. And I think that is a non-legal standard," Sessions said on NBC's "Today" show.

Democratic Support

Democrats are rallying behind Obama's Supreme Court pick.

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