Obama tries to deflect heat from Sotomayor, saying she would have restated words in 2001 speech

Obama tries to deflect criticism from Sotomayor

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday personally sought to deflect criticism about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. “I’m sure she would have restated it,” Obama flatly told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.

The quote in question from Sotomayor has emerged as a rallying call for conservative critics who fear she will offer opinions from the bench based less on the rule of law and more on her life experience, ethnicity and gender. That debate is likely to play a central role in her Senate confirmation process.

Said Sotomayor in 2001: “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.”

After three days of suggesting that reporters and critics should not dwell on one sentence from a speech, the White House had a different message Friday.

“I think if she had the speech to do all over again, I think she’d change that word,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

Gibbs said he did not hear that from Sotomayor directly, but rather from people who had talked to her, and he did not identify who those people were. Sotomayor herself has made no public comments about the matter and was not available for comment.

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