Alito Grilling Gets Too Intense for Some

ByABC News
January 11, 2006, 7:35 PM

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2005 -- -- After probing for possible weak spots in the record of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito on Day Two of his confirmation hearings, Democrats used Day Three to poke at what they thought those weak spots were.

But at the end of the day, the Democrats' plan of attack proved to be too much -- at least for one member of the audience.

The nominee's wife, Martha Ann Alito, broke into tears after Republicans expressed their disapproval of how Alito was being treated.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had been sympathizing with Alito, telling him he was sorry he was being subjected to grueling questions from Democrats. In an effort to settle the matter of whether the nominee was prejudiced against women and minorities, Graham asked him directly, but sympathetically, "Are you a bigot?"

Alito responded, "I'm not any kind of bigot."

It was at this point that Alito's wife, who was sitting right behind her husband, began to cry and left the hearing. After a recess in the hearing, she returned for its remainder.

One White House official later said that Mrs. Alito viewed the attacks on her husband as disgraceful. "She was very upset that a good and decent man would get attacked," the official told ABC News. "It's outrageous."

Democrats had spent the day repeatedly zeroing in on the issues of abortion and civil rights, asking Alito to explain "inconsistencies" between his testimony and past writings.

Perhaps the tensest moments arose over Alito's past membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, or CAP, a conservative group that opposed admitting women and minorities to the university.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., got into a spat with Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Penn., when he demanded that the committee subpoena documents about the group from the Library of Congress -- though later Specter announced that Kennedy's staff would be allowed to view and distribute those materials.