Cokie Roberts appeared on Friday's "Good Morning America" and agreed with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's 1994 comment that a wise woman would come to a better conclusion than a man. Roberts, cheered, "Of course, I would agree with her that they're better." Fellow ABC journalist Sam Donaldson empathized that if the judge made a mistake, "it was a Joe Biden problem. She blurted out the truth." [Audio available here]
Throughout two segments on the program, various reporters and guests justified Sotomayor's comments. Roberts attempted to explain away the comments, which are in addition to the now famous 2001 "wise Latina" quote. She sympathized to co-host Diane Sawyer, "You go before these big women's groups. And, Diane, I'm sure you've done it. I've certainly done it many times." With no hint of controversy, Roberts added, "And you do say things that kind of rev up the crowd and get women excited. And one of those things that you do say is that women are better than men."
Reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg in the intro piece asserted, "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." She then featured a clip of Women's Studies professor Phyllis Coontz casually observing, "You may reach the same outcome. But the way you get there is different. Women are more sensitive because they think about other people." Would the University of Pittsburgh instructor have found it okay to insert some other ethic or religious minority in that sentence?
After his "Joe Biden" quote, Donaldson followed up by explaining that Sotomayor would backtrack. "Because, again, when you blurt out the truth, you have to come back. It's not diplomatic and all of that," he mused.
Greenburg highlighted the nominee's meetings with Senators and noted, "She's told them she meant the comments as inspirational. And that if she's a justice, she'll follow the law, not her feelings." However, as MRC analyst Matt Balan noted in an MRC Bias Alert, this simply doesn't hold up. During a 2001 speech, Sotomayor actually seemed to celebrate judges using their personal background in making decisions:
However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.
A transcript of the Cokie Roberts/Sam Donaldson discussion, which aired at 7:15 on June 5, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: All right. Our thanks to you, Jan. A discussion to have around the breakfast table. And so, we're bringing in our two favorites, ABC's Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson, for just this discussion. Okay, Cokie. She didn't say women are different in making decisions. She said better. Can she get away with that?
COKIE ROBERTS: Well, she's having to backtrack on it. Of course, I would agree with her that they're better.
DAVID MUIR: Here we go.
ROBERTS: That the truth is- the truth is that there is a difference. And is the difference better in the case of a sex discrimination case? Not only do I think it's better, I think it's more rational. Obviously, if you are a discriminating against a qualified person on the basis of sex or race, that's an irrational, prejudicial choice. And so, for judges to side with that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But, look. You go before these big women's groups. And, Diane, I'm sure you've done it. I've certainly done it many times. And you do say things that kind of rev up the crowd and get women excited. And one of those things that you do say is that women are better than men.
SAWYER: She said it fairly often. Sam, going to bring you in here. Even Justice Ginsburg said at one point, on a strip-search case of a 13-year-old girl, of the men on the court, "They've never been a 13-year-old girl. It's a sensitive age for a girl. I don't think my colleagues, some of them, quite understood." Do they understand? Can they understand? Are you standing up for your gender?
SAM DONALDSON: Women, better than men, no? Different than men? Yes. They bring a different perspective. I mean, if Judge Sotomayor had a problem with what she said, it was a Joe Biden problem. She blurted out the truth. We all bring our perspective, our backgrounds. For instance, on guns, she may take a different position than a westerner who may understand why, out west, people want guns because that's where he or she comes from. And we want this kind of diversity. Hey.
MUIR: People trying to read the tea leaves here. It's Muir here in New York. I wanted to chime in, because we can obviously debate this here. But, it's going to come down to what the Senators say. And Senator Susan Collins had a meeting with Sotomayor yesterday. She said she was concerned going in about these comments, that the judge explained them as aspirational speeches, rather than something that led to the deciding of a case. So, is that going to be enough and is she going to continue to give this answer to all these senators behind closed doors, Cokie?
DONALDSON: Well, as Cokie suggests, she's going to dance the light fantastic just a little bit. Because, again, when you blurt out the truth, you have to come back. It's not diplomatic and all of that. But, the fact remains, she will bring her life experiences just as Justice Scalia brought his. And Justice Ginsburg and Justice Marshal brought theirs. It's not that one judge is dumb and the other's smart. One can actually read the English version of the Constitution and one can't. It's that you bring different perspectives and lens' because of who you are. If we want all men in the group. We once had that. Or all women, I hope we never have that, it would be silly.
ROBERTS: Sam- Sam, I completely agree with my colleague, Sam. But the- the truth is that, of course, the court has had very few minorities and women ever. And right now, we're dealing with 36 percent of the population is white male. You'd never know that, looking at the United States Supreme Court. Or looking at the United States Congress. Or looking at most corporate boards. So, I think that this kind of diversity is absolutely essential on the court. And, you know, one of the interesting things about Sotomayor is that because she grew up in the projects, she's been a lot tougher on crime than a lot of Democrats have been in the past. And that might be an interesting life experience, as she goes through the confirmation process, as well.
SAWYER: Okay. 15 Seconds. Quick yes or no. No matter how many times she said that, not going to hurt her case? Going to hurt her case? Yes/no?
DONALDSON: No. She's going to be confirmed and I think with significant-
ROBERTS: Republicans will try to make something of it. And it won't work.