Newt Gingrich is not known for his verbal self-restraint. But even he thinks he went too far when he called Judge Sonia Sotomayor a racist in a Twitter post. In a Human Events column, the former Republican House Leader wrote:
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice.
With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. 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).
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised Gingrich's move. "I'm very glad he backed off," Sessions told CNN. "I think that's unusual, that commentators do that, and I think it was very good that he did. I think that will help -- help us."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs swatted Gingrich last week for his "racist" comment. Asked about the accusation at a briefing, he said, "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."
Gingrich's concession could put pressure on Rush Limbaugh to back off his own assertions of Sotomayor's racism, which are already controversial in the GOP. Or it could open up another rift between these two conservative heavyweights.