Did Sotomayor really misspeak?

The White House has tried to spin away a controversial quote, but their explanations don't hold water


Alex Koppelman
June 5, 2009 6:35PM (UTC)

Judge Sonia Sotomayor's come under quite a bit of fire for a remark she made in a 2001 speech. Responding to a quote from Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "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."

To be clear, the quote, in context, is not what opponents of Sotomayor and of President Obama have made it out to be, and it certainly doesn't indicate she's a "reverse racist," as Rush Limbaugh described her.

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Still, the White House has tried to spin the quote away. Now, though, new information from the material Sotomayor delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday shows that their spin simply doesn't square with the facts. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said the judge made a "poor" choice of words, and would phrase her statement differently if given the chance to do so. Even Obama himself addressed the issue, telling reporters he was "sure she would have restated it."  (Neither man said how they knew this.)

But Congressional Quarterly reports, based on the questionnaire Sotomayor turned in, that she's actually used that exact language, or at least similar language, on multiple occasions. There's a 1994 speech, for instance, which Greg Sargent had already revealed. Then there's a 2003 speech, another 1994 speech and one in 1999. And it seems like she may have said something like that in three other addressses as well.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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