NBC's Gregory purported to provide "wider context" for Sotomayor's quote but didn't provide enough

››› ››› GREG LEWIS

David Gregory purported to provide "wider context" for Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark, but left out passages in which she explained that, like any judge, she has to work to overcome her own personal assumptions and biases to render a fair decision.

During the May 31 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, host David Gregory purported to provide "wider context" for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's remark in a 2001 speech 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 hasn't lived that life," but left out pertinent passages from the speech that would have better provided the "wider context."

After asserting that he wanted to put Sotomayor's comments "in wider context than we've heard them discussed this week" because the "context is important," Gregory read excerpts from her speech, stating in part [ellipsis appeared in on-screen text]:

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. ... 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 the difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

However, Gregory omitted the portion of Sotomayor's speech in which she explained that the experiences or backgrounds of white males also affect how they adjudicate, specifically with regard to "sex and race discrimination" cases. In another portion of the speech that Gregory did not mention, Sotomayor explained that, like any judge, she has to work to overcome her own personal assumptions and biases to render a fair decision.

In her speech, Sotomayor made the following remarks, with the portions Gregory left out in bold:

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.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

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.

[...]

Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

From the May 31 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press [ellipses appeared in on-screen text]:

GREGORY: The first flashpoint in this nomination of Judge Sotomayor surrounds the issue of race and personal experience. Comments that she made back in 2001 have captured a lot of people's attention, and I want to put them on the screen here in wider context than we've heard them discussed this week because I think the context is important and I want to get your reaction. This is what she said.

"I ... accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that -- it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. ... Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that wise old men and wise -- and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am ... not so sure that I agree with the statement. ... 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. ... 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 the difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

Senator Sessions, are you troubled by that?

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
David Gregory
Show/Publication
Meet the Press
Stories/Interests
Supreme Court Nominations, Sotomayor Nomination
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