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Friday, May 29, 2009

Misleading Sotomayor Headline Of The Day

At a 2001 conference, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor uttered these now-famous words:
“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.”
The White House has acknowledged that Sotomayor used a "poor" choice of words. Yet some people are trying to defend Sotomayor's comments not on the merits of the comments, or even by stating that Sotomayor misspoke, but by distorting comments by prior Republican Supreme Court nominees.

In a post titled Reagan Appointee Sandra Day O’Connor Said Gender, Race Impact Judging, The Plum Line blog gets the award for most misleading headline of the day. Here is the intro to the post:

Sonia Sotomayor is taking a beating from conservatives for her 2001 speech saying that gender and race will inevitably impact one’s judgment and jurisprudence.

But guess who said something very similar? Moderately conservative Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Said something very similar? Keep reading, and the opposite is true. Here is the O'Connor statement quoted (the bold highlighting is as printed at The Plum Line, the italics are mine):

“My experience as a legislator gives me a different perspective. Also, I bring to the court the perspective of a woman primarily in a sense that I am female, just as I am white, a college graduate, etc.

“Yes, I will bring the understanding of a woman to the court, but I doubt that that alone will affect my decisions,” she said.I think the important fact about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman, but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases.”

O'Connors statement, as quoted, is the opposite of the headline, and nothing like what Sotomayor said. The author acknowledges this later in the post:
To be clear, O’Connor’s sentiments aren’t identical to Sotomayor’s. O’Connor was to a degree downplaying the impact her gender might have.
Sotomayor played up the importance of her gender and ethnicity, while O'Connor downplayed those factors, yet the point of the The Plum Line post -- until that final admission -- is that the two sets of comments were similar. A blogger at DailyKos cites The Plum Line post as authority, ignoring the admonition (quoted immediately above) that the headline and thesis of the post are not actually correct.

While some people will say anything to defeat the Sotomayor nomination, it is equally clear that others will say anything in support of Sotomayor.

UPDATE: Sister Toldjah has a good analysis of The Plum Line post as well as other posts misrepresenting comments by Samuel Alito.

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  1. You should include O'Connor's statement that a wise old man and a wise old woman would reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.

  2. It is just like the 'liberal press' to put something like this in their paper. To be honest, Judge O'Connor's statement should not have any added words. Both comments should be side by side without any editorializing.

    However, it is a shame that most people would rather read the editor's comments and let him or her make up that person's mind.

  3. I am very concerned about Supreme Court issue. With judges like that we may have new Constitution soon.

    Kris @