Sotomayor Made Anti-Male Comments in 1994, Media Mostly Mum

June 4th, 2009 3:22 PM

On Thursday morning, NewsBusters' Tim Graham asked, "Mark Levin Says Damaging New Sotomayor Texts Emerging: Will Media Notice?"

Given the small amount of attention yesterday's revelation that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made extremely similar derogatory comments about men back in 1994 as she did in 2001, the answer appears to be "No."

As most readers are aware, Sotomayor uttered the following roughly eight years ago during a lecture at Boalt Hall, the University of California, Berkeley's, law school:

Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.

As Graham pointed out, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post's Who Runs Gov site found that Sotomayor said almost exactly the same thing in a speech given at the 40th National Conference of Law Reviews on March 17, 1994:

Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that "a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion in dueling cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes the line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.

As you can see, the only pivotal words missing were "Latina" and "white male." Yet, the derision towards men was quite apparent.

In fact, the text of both speeches is remarkably similar, with the overall theme being male jurists throughout American history have made bad judicial decisions, and women would done a better job.

As this proves such sentiments were not a misstatement or a bad choice of words on Sotomayor's part in 2001, and that, instead, this is indeed a firmly held belief of hers, one would think this was newsworthy.

Unfortunately not, for LexisNexis and Google News searches identified little interest in this revelation.

Although the Associated Press mentioned Sotomayor's 1994 statements in numerous pieces the past couple of days, major newspapers like the New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post (save Sargent's blog) have totally ignored them.

No mention of this occurred on the broadcast evening news programs Wednesday either.

For its part, CNN addressed the matter twice Wednesday, and once Thursday with Dana Bash reporting:

Meanwhile Sotomayor's Democratic supporters are now circulating this speech from 1994 where she gave some similar comments to those that are causing such controversy. Now she did not make racial remarks, but she did make clear that she thinks a woman can make a better decision -- reach a better conclusion than a man.

Now Lou, Democrats are saying that they sent this up to Congress when she was approved as a circuit court judge. Republicans didn't complain then. But a GOP aide I talked to responded saying all this does is prove that the White House claim is false when they say that she has a poor choice of words now in the controversial comments that everybody is talking about.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann conveyed the same "why didn't Republicans complain in 1998" defense during Wednesday's "Countdown":

"The Plum Line" blog reporting that a 1994 speech, with almost the same line, addressing gender alone not ethnicity, was given to the Republican senators as part of her questionnaire package in 1998. No indication that anybody raised the complaint then, including Republicans who voted for her then.

Not surprisingly, Olbermann was just channeling Sargent's argument:

And though the 1994 speech was disclosed to Republican Senators as part of her confirmation for Court of Appeals in 1998, there’s no sign that anyone objected to it in any way.

The revelation raises fresh questions as to why the 2001 comments generated the controversy they did, and suggests that the comments are not as controversial as her critics claim. [...]

There’s no sign that any Republican Senators — seven of whom are still in the Senate — had any objection whatsoever to the comments when they reviewed them in 1998.

Why does that matter? Do two wrongs make a right? If Republican Senators missed this eleven years ago, or didn't feel it was important at the time, does that mean it shouldn't be important now?

It goes without saying there is far greater scrutiny given to Supreme Court nominees than those being considered for a district bench. As such, it's likely not at all out of the ordinary for things that didn't surface during one's district court nomination hearings to get great attention when you're being considered for the highest court in the land.

In the end, although CNN's Bash said this revelation was being disseminated by Sotomayor's Democrat supporters, it seems her backers in the press felt this was actually more damaging to the nominee than something that should be ignored now because it wasn't important eleven years ago.

After all, if media saw this as the smoking gun Olbermann and Sargent claimed, it likely would have been front-page news across the fruited plain Thursday, and all over the television Wednesday evening.