Media Slowly Noticing Sotomayor's 'Wise Woman' Comments

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

As it turns out, Levin was right about these texts, and newsrooms are starting to pay attention, but very slowly.

CQ reported Thursday evening:

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor delivered multiple speeches between 1994 and 2003 in which she suggested "a wise Latina woman" or "wise woman" judge might "reach a better conclusion" than a male judge.

Those speeches, released Thursday as part of Sotomayor's responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee's questionnaire, (to see Sotomayor's responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee click here and here) suggest her widely quoted 2001 speech in which she indicated a "wise Latina" judge might make a better decision was far from a single isolated instance.

Somewhat surprising, ABC's "World News with Charlie Gibson" also reported this Thursday night:

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) But the focus is on her opinions and speeches, which reveal statements that will deepen an already existing controversy, including a 1994 speech in Puerto Rico, where she said "A wise woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion than a man." And what's a better conclusion? Better, she said will mean a more compassionate and caring conclusion. Sotomayor made a similar point in 2001 when she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Off-camera) The comments stirred controversy, prompting President Obama to suggest they were isolated and ill-advised.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm sure she would have restated it.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) But Republicans aren't buying it.

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (REPUBLICAN): That was not an isolated statement. It's - appeared to be consistent with an earlier statement she had made.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) The issue has come up repeatedly in her meetings this week with senators. Sotomayor has defended herself, telling them she will decide cases based on law, not on feelings or ideology.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (REPUBLICAN): I'm still uncomfortable that she made the statement, particularly as a sitting judge.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) Republicans are going through her speeches to find other examples. Hill sources say they know of at least three additional speeches making the same point. Jan Crawford Greenburg, ABC News, Capitol Hill.

Unfortunately, ABC followed that balanced report with a far different one on Friday's "Good Morning America":

DAVID MUIR (ABC NEWS)( Off-camera) Now to the continuing controversy over Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, who delivered her questionnaire to the Senate Thursday, all 173 pages, just nine days, the fastest time ever.

GRAPHICS: JUDGING THE JUDGE

GRAPHICS: DO MEN AND WOMEN RULE DIFFERENTLY?

DAVID MUIR (ABC NEWS) (Off-camera) Last week, Sotomayor caused controversy with those now infamous comments that she made in 2001 about being a wise Latina and its impact on decision-making.

DAVID MUIR (ABC NEWS) (Off-camera) And now, the questionnaire makes it clear that it wasn't the only time she said something of the sort. ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg with more.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) Sotomayor's Senate questionnaire reveals she made that point more than once.

GRAPHICS: STATEMENT FROM JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) In 1994, she said she hoped a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion. Those new comments only fuel the debate on whether gender matters in how judges make decisions. Sandra Day O'Connor, the court's first woman justice, didn't think so.

SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR (FORMER JUSTICE) I can't see that on the issues that we address at the court that a wise old woman is going to decide a case differently than a wise old man.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) But in her speeches, Sotomayor has specifically said she doesn't agree with O'Connor, and that women, because of their experiences, are better. What is better? "Better," she said, "will mean a more compassionate and caring conclusion." O'Connor, when she was on the court, did ask how cases would affect women, as in a 1996 argument, when she challenged a lawyer, arguing that police should be able to detain passengers on the roadway, while they search the car's driver.

GRAPHICS: STATEMENT FROM SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR

SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR (FORMER JUSTICE) Suppose it's a driving snowstorm, or a blinding rainstorm, the passenger is a mother with a very young baby.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) Experts say there's no question gender and life experiences play some part in judicial decisions. Women think of things that might not occur to a man.

PROFESSOR PHYLLIS COONTZ (WOMEN'S STUDIES) You may reach the same outcome, but the way you get there is different. Women are more sensitive because they think about other people.

GRAPHICS: UNTANGLING THE CASUAL EFFECTS OF SEX ON JUDGING

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) A recent study found that on most issues, there was no difference in the way that male and females make conclusions. But then there was this. In the area of sex discrimination, female judges were 10% more likely to rule for the victim.

PROFESSOR PHYLLIS COONTZ (WOMEN'S STUDIES) It makes sense that women would rule differently in cases where they're affected. And sexual harassment is one of those instances.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Off-camera) Now, the issue has dominated her meetings with senators this week. She's told them she meant those comments as inspirational. And that if she's a justice, she'll follow the law, not her feelings.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG (ABC NEWS) (Voiceover) Republicans say they want to know more about her record. They'll keep scouring that questionnaire. Diane?

So, on Thursday night, ABC presented the facts about Sotomayor's statements. On Friday morning, her remarks were justified. 

One step forward and two steps back, wouldn't you agree?

But, at least they covered it, which is better than CBS News and NBC News which still don't think this matter is important enough to share with the public. Ditto most major newspapers like the New York Times and USA Today.

For its part, CNN did one story on this subject Thursday, and two on Friday.

As such, when you add it all up, Sotomayor's seemingly sexist remarks are starting to get some play, but certainly not what would have happened if a conservative male nominee had a history of claiming a wise man would make better judicial decisions than a wise woman.

Sotomayor Nomination Sonia Sotomayor
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