Gingrich misleads on "empathy"

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

On Hannity, Newt Gingrich forwarded the false conservative talking point that President Obama said he would seek a justice who shows "empathy" rather than a commitment to follow the law. But Obama actually said his nominee will do both.

During the June 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich forwarded the false conservative talking point that President Obama said he would seek a justice who shows "empathy" rather than a commitment to follow the law. But Obama actually said his nominee will do both. Gingrich claimed, "Look, the whole concept that President Obama has talked about -- that he worries about empathy. We don't have the rule of empathy. We have the rule of law." In fact, in Obama's May 1 statement to which conservatives have repeatedly pointed, immediately after saying, "I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes," Obama said he "will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role."

Further, as Media Matters for America has noted, during their confirmation hearings, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito each acknowledged the significant impact their background and personal experiences have had on their judicial thinking. Alito asserted during his 2006 confirmation hearing: "When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account." During Thomas' confirmation hearing, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) asked, "I'd like to ask you why you want this job?" Thomas replied in part: "I believe, Senator, that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does."

Additionally, numerous Republicans -- including former Sens. Strom Thurmond (SC), Al D'Amato (NY), and Mike DeWine (OH) -- have previously praised compassion as a judicial attribute and highlighted the importance of the personal experiences of judicial nominees.

From the June 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY (host): I think we also -- you know, when you look at the case of this firefighter in New Haven, Frank Ricci, a guy that's suffering from dyslexia. He quit a second job so he could study for this promotion.

He spent $1,000 on books, hired somebody to help read the material to him, had tapes on it, comes in sixth. Would have gotten promoted but for the idea of racial quotas. Now, that doesn't sound like equal justice.

GINGRICH: No, there's no --

HANNITY: Go ahead.

GINGRICH: It's not equal justice. Look, the whole concept that President Obama has talked about -- that he worries about empathy. We don't have the rule of empathy. We have the rule of law. And I think that the nomination of Judge Sotomayor is going to, in fact, create a debate in the Congress.

I noticed that Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat from Nebraska, today raised troubling questions. I think as people see more of what she's written, and as they look at the case you just described from New Haven, they're going to be very troubled by this. I don't think the American people believe --

HANNITY: Right.

GINGRICH: -- that we, as individuals, should have group judgments and should be subject to quotas.

HANNITY: Yeah.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Newt Gingrich
Show/Publication
Hannity
Stories/Interests
Supreme Court Nominations, Sotomayor Nomination
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.