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Senators Press Sotomayor on Past Statements

In a second, tense day of Senate testimony, Judge Sonia Sotomayor defended her past remarks about race while seeking to elaborate on her judicial philosophy. Kwame Holman recaps the day's events.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor defended her record and her speeches today. It was day two of her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our lead story report.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Right from the start, Judge Sotomayor was called to defend past statements, and she flatly denied any racial bias. Committee Chair Patrick Leahy moved to pre-empt Republican criticism in his opening questions.

    He asked Sotomayor about her much-debated 2001 remark that "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 has not lived that life."

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), Vermont: So tell us. You've heard all these charges and countercharges, the "wise Latina," and on and on. Here's your chance. You tell us — you tell us what's going on here, Judge.

  • JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, Supreme Court Justice Nominee:

    Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain my remarks. No words I have ever spoken or written have received so much attention.

    As my speech made clear, in one of the quotes that you referenced, I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system, because different life experiences and backgrounds always do. I don't think that there is a quarrel with that in our society.

    I was also trying to inspire them to believe that they could become anything they wanted to become, just as I had.

    The context of the words that I spoke have created a misunderstanding. And I want — and misunderstanding — and to give everyone assurances, I want to state upfront, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial, or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences.