Wash. Post, WSJ omit context of Sotomayor remarks, despite reporting WH "out of context" statement

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

In articles on the political "battle" over Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal omitted the context for remarks she made in 2001 and 2005, even though both articles included a response from the White House saying Sotomayor's comments are being taken "out of context."

In May 28 articles about the political "battle" over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal omitted the context for remarks Sotomayor made in 2001 about "Latina" and "white male" judges that conservatives have criticized, even though both articles included a response from the White House saying Sotomayor's comments are being taken "out of context." In addition, the Post omitted the context of comments Sotomayor made in 2005 about the role of appellate judges in making policy. As Media Matters for America has documented, the media have widely misrepresented both Sotomayor's 2001 and 2005 comments.

The Post reported that "conservatives have seized upon Sotomayor's unscripted moments to make the case that she is outside the mainstream. The two most often quoted are a statement she made about how appellate judges make policy and her observation about how being a Latina affects her role as a judge: 'I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.' " Similarly, the Journal reported, "Conservatives are focusing on a speech Ms. Sotomayor delivered at the University of California at Berkeley law school, where she said, '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.' " Both reports included the White House's statement that the remarks are "being taken out of context," and repeated former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-GA) assertion regarding Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment that "[n]ew racism is no better than old racism." In fact, when Sotomayor made the "wise Latina" remark, she was specifically discussing the importance of judicial diversity in determining "race and sex discrimination cases."

Moreover, when Sotomayor said at a February 25, 2005, Duke University School of Law forum that the "court of appeals is where policy is made," she was responding to a student who asked the panel to contrast the experiences of a district court clerkship and a circuit court clerkship. As Media Matters has documented, numerous legal experts have stated that Sotomayor's 2005 comment was "the absolute judicial equivalent of saying the sun rises each morning" and "thoroughly uncontroversial to anyone other than a determined demagogue," in the words of Hofstra University law professor Eric Freedman. Indeed, the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2005) notes that federal appellate courts do, in fact, have a "policy making" role.

In a May 27 article, The Washington Post similarly omitted the context for Sotomayor's 2001 remark, even though it included the White House's response that her comments are being taken out of context.

From the Washington Post's May 28 article:

Meanwhile, conservatives have seized upon Sotomayor's unscripted moments to make the case that she is outside the mainstream. The two most often quoted are a statement she made about how appellate judges make policy and her observation about how being a Latina affects her role as a judge: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

The White House has said the remarks are being taken out of context and reflect only the obvious point that Sotomayor's life experiences affect her outlook. Press secretary Robert Gibbs reacted sharply to a Twitter post from former House speaker Newt Gingrich that said, "Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman' new racism is no better than old racism."

Gibbs said Americans will make up their minds about Sotomayor based on "more than just the blog of a former lawmaker" and added: "I think it is probably important for anyone involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they decided to describe certain aspects of this impending confirmation."

From the Wall Street Journal's May 28 article:

Conservatives are focusing on a speech Ms. Sotomayor delivered at the University of California at Berkeley law school, where she said, "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."

"Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman.' Wouldn't they have to withdraw?" asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on his Web site. "New racism is no better than old racism."

White House aides said the comment was being taken out of context, and predicted it wouldn't put the nomination off course. Indeed, the White House believes the president is operating from a position of strength, and officials emphasized that a pitched confirmation fight isn't inevitable.

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