- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday that Judge Sonia Sotomayor regrets saying in 2001 that a Hispanic woman would arrive at a better conclusion on a decision than a white male.

“Her word choice in 2001 was poor,” Mr. Gibbs told reporters, seeking to settle what has become an early stumbling point for Judge Sotomayor, whom President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court this week.

“I think she’d change that word,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding he reached that conclusion after “discussions with people, people that have talked to her.”

In her 2001 remarks, reprinted in a 2002 publication, the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, Judge 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.”

Judge Sotomayor is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who grew up in a housing project in the Bronx. If confirmed, she would be the first Hispanic to serve on the high court.

But that 2001 comment has become a lightning rod for conservative critics who say it amounts to reverse discrimination or, in the words of radio talk-show Rush Limbaugh, “reverse racism.”

Mr. Gibbs said Judge Sotomayor at the time was “making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judging.” Mr. Gibbs pointed to other Supreme Court nominees, including sitting Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., nominated by President George W. Bush, who referenced his heritage during his confirmation hearing.

In answer to a question from a senator on his ability to relate to the downtrodden and weak, Justice Alito said when it came to cases involving discrimination, he thinks about people in his own Italian-American family “who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background, because of religion or because of gender.”

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