NBC provided a platform Friday for President Obama to fire back at conservative critics of his Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, as Brian Williams cued him up to agree her comment that a Latina judge would make better decisions than a white male one, is “one of those she'd rather have back.” Obama naturally agreed as NBC Nightly News aired his response for an uninterrupted two-plus minutes -- an eternity on TV news.
Fill-in anchor Lester Holt led with how “critics on the right tonight are finding some traction in comments she made back in 2001 suggesting a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better conclusion than a white male judge. And late today the President addressed it head on.” Viewers soon saw a clip of Williams at the White House with Obama, for a two-part prime time special next week:
This is the quote: “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.” It's your judgment -- perhaps having talked to the judge -- that, as we say, that's one of those she'd rather have back if she had it to re-do?
Obama began by agreeing “I'm sure she would have re-stated it” -- and he wrapped up his retort two minutes and ten seconds later by predicting “all of this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is.”
(Meanwhile, CBS discovered more proof Sotomayor is not liberal, describing her as “more centrist than opponents first thought.” Reporter Wyatt Andrews, who on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, contended Obama “found a judge with 17 years experience but no clear ideology on discrimination, gay rights, or abortion and who can't be easily defined by political labels,” returned Friday night to maintain: “It is also clear that Sotomayor is more centrist than opponents first thought. On SCOTUSblog, a neutral Web site, Tom Goldstein finds that the judge ruled against minorities in 45 out of 50 cases.” Goldstein asserted in a soundbite: “And it turns out that almost all the time she rejects claims of discrimination by minorities.”)
From the top of the Friday, May 29 NBC Nightly News:
LESTER HOLT: In the growing controversy over President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, critics on the right tonight are finding some traction in comments she made back in 2001 suggesting a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better conclusion than a white male judge. And late today the President addressed it head on, telling Brian Williams Sotomayor may have wanted to restate her point. Mr. Obama's comments came at the end of a day that Brian and an NBC News team spent with the President documenting life inside the White House for a two-night special to air next week here on NBC. The Sotomayor pick dominated a broad-ranging discussion and capped a day of extraordinary access into the Obama White House. NBC News White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie is also there tonight with more on the Sotomayor controversy. Savannah, good evening to you.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Good evening, Lester. As you mentioned, those comments that Sotomayor made in 2001 have generated a growing firestorm, and the White House decided today it was time to respond. The President acknowledging for the first time that the judge probably wishes she had used other words, but he also strongly defended his nominee. Here is the President with NBCs Brian Williams in an exclusive interview.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is the quote: “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.” It's your judgment -- perhaps having talked to the judge -- that, as we say, that's one of those she'd rather have back if she had it to re-do?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm sure she would have re-stated it. But if you look at the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what's clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through that will make her a good judge. And, you know, she was pointing out in that same essay that it was nine white males who passed down Brown versus Board of Education, which is partly responsible for me sitting here. So that's hardly the kind of statement that would indicate that she subscribes to identity politics. In fact, what she really subscribes to is the exact opposite, which is the sense that all of us have life experiences and struggles and part of the job of a justice on the Supreme Court, or any judge, is to be able to stand in somebody else's shoes, to be able to understand the nature of the case and how it has an impact on people's ordinary, day-to-day lives, and so her as a Latina woman, part of her job is going to be to listen to the farmer in Iowa and, you know, if he's upset about a farm regulation, and being able to understand how hard it is to farm and what that means and to be able to incorporate that into her decision making. It means that she has an understanding of what a corporate CEO might be thinking, and she has those experiences as well having worked as a corporate litigator. That breadth of experience, that knowledge of how the world works is part of what we want for a justice who's going to be effective. And I think that when she's appearing before the Senate committee in her confirmation process, I think all of this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is.
GUTHRIE: Well as we mentioned, the judge's statement really generated some heated rhetoric on the right. Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich called her a racist. But some other Republican leaders today expressed some unease with that racially-charged rhetoric, saying she should be judged on her judicial philosophy, on her record alone. Meanwhile, the judge goes to Capitol Hill next week starting the confirmation process in earnest when she meets with key Senators there.