Newt: I Regret Calling Sotomayor “Racist”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he regrets calling Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a "racist" -- saying his choice of words was "perhaps too strong." 

"My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct," Gingrich wrote on the conservative site Human Events today.

Gingrich backpedaled a week after he posted a message on his Twitter page calling the would-be first Latina to hold the seat a racist for comments she made saying that a "wise Latina" could make a better decision than "a white male." 

"The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted)," he wrote.

Gingrich was criticized by members of his own party who said he and conservative talk radio host  Rush Limbaugh -- who referred to Sotomayor as a "reserve racist" -- were setting a negative precedent for the party.

"I think it's terrible," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said last week. "This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent. Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials. I just don't think it's appropriate. I certainly don't endorse it. I think it's wrong."

But Limbaugh today refused to back down from his comments that Sotomayer was racist and said his statements "have not been too strong."

"I'm not retracting it," he said on his radio show

The talk show host appeared miffed by Gingrich's retraction and said he has no intentions to go back on his statement.

"I didn't know why he retracted it, and I still don't," Limbaugh said. "Now they may say, 'Don't say it, Rush. Dial it back a little bit,' but nobody's saying I'm wrong. Nobody's saying I'm making it up. I mean, when she says that she'd do a better job than a white guy, what is it? It's racism." 

The White House shot back that critics should be "exceedingly careful" how they describe the nomination.

"I think it is probably important for anyone involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they've decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation," press secretary Robert Gibbs said. 

Sotomayor drew criticism for comments she made during a 2001 lecture at University of California-Berkeley, claiming that "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male." 

Gingrich said the comments were racist -- but later said he went too far.

"Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman,'" Gingrich posted on his site. "New racism is no better than old racism."

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