Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - July 25, 2010

July 26, 2010 10:16 am ET

On Fox News Sunday, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich defended his year-old "Latina woman racist" attack against Justice Sonia Sotomayor by insisting that a white man would have been pilloried had he made similar remarks. Read in their full context, Sotomayor's remarks do not assert any inherent superiority of judgment for Hispanics — or any other race for that matter. It's worth remembering that Sotomayor was praising the way greater diversity of experience leads to more fully-informed decisions. Later, Gingrich misled viewers to believe that Democrats can extend the Bush tax cuts without changing the law (Republicans wrote the bill to sunset after 2010). Elsewhere, Civil Rights Commissioner Abigail Thomas claimed that polling shows Tea Partiers are reflective of America at large. In fact, polling shows that's just not true.

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Newt Gingrich Defended His 2009 Claim That Out-Of-Context Quote From Justice Sotomayor Was Proof Of Racism

NEWT GINGRICH: What I said about Sotomayor I think still stands, which was, the statements she made were clearly racist. Now I don't know, have any idea in her heart whether she's a racist, but you go back and look at her exact quotes, and they were quotes which if you put in 'white male' instead of 'latina,' you would absolutely say that was the statement of a racist.

FACT: Full Context Of Sotomayor Quote Shows That She Was Talking About Life Experience, Not Inherent Racial Superiority Of Judgment Or Intellect

In Disagreeing With Statement That Gender Does Not Affect Judgment, Then-Judge Sotomayor Expressed "Hope" That Experiencing American Life As A Minority May Lead "A Wise Latina Woman" To Better Decisions On Discrimination Than  "A White Male Who Hasn't Lived That Life." In a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, then-Judge Sotomayor said:

In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

["A Latina Judge's Voice," Sonia Sotomayor, accessed 7/25/10 via New York Times, emphasis added]

CLAIM: Newt Gingrich Falsely Claimed That Extending The Bush Tax Cuts Would Not Require Changing "Current Law"

NEWT GINGRICH: I'd extend— I would simply say, no tax increase next year. Keep current law as it is. Extend no tax in— have no tax increase next year.

FACT: "Current Law" Says All Bush Tax Cuts Expire December 31, 2010

Time: Congress Wrote Tax Law To Expire After 2010 Because It Made Cuts Appear Cheaper. According to Time:

Most of the relief comes at the tail end of the 10-year plan--and the year after that, the whole thing disappears, restoring in 2011 the very same tax laws that were in force last April 15...

Topping the list of odd features is the "sunset" provision that repeals the entire bill at the end of 2010. Budget rules require Congress to include a sunset clause in all major tax legislation, but this sunset arrives a year early--after 10 years instead of the 11 years covered by the current budget resolution. That year was shaved off to keep the total cost of the bill under $1.35 trillion. By repealing the legislation in the 10th year, Congress saved billions of dollars. Without the repeal and a few other tricks, the cost of the full 11-year plan would balloon to more than $1.8 trillion by the end of 2011, far exceeding anything the Democrats would vote for. And the cost in the second decade would reach as much as $4 trillion. Even some conservatives on Capitol Hill are dismayed by the apparent dishonesty of the early sunset. After both parties agreed to a smaller tax cut, the conference committee pulled a fast one.

[Time, 6/3/01, emphasis added]

American Enterprise Institute: Reconciliation "Ploy" To Pass Bush Tax Cuts Means They Expire After 10 Years. According to Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at AEI:

It is worth repeating why we are in this particular car heading toward the cliff. When the Bush tax cuts were on the agenda at the very beginning of his presidency, Republicans in Congress and the White House made a tactical choice to avoid giving Senate Democrats the leverage that a 60-vote hurdle can provide by employing reconciliation (yes, the same tool that those who applied it then condemned roundly when it was used for health care reform this year). It was tricky to use reconciliation for tax cuts, which increased deficits when reconciliation was specifically supposed to be used for revenue-neutral or deficit-reducing programs. But the decision was made to use it for this purpose--but not to violate the proviso that the plan would increase deficits outside the budget window of 10 years.

That meant a ploy of declaring that all the tax cuts would expire entirely after 10 years, including the absurd-on-its-face provision that estate taxes would gradually decline to zero in 2010--and then be fully restored in 2011. From the day after the tax cuts were signed into law, Republicans were campaigning to extend them, in effect admitting that the policy was built around a "never mind" ruse. To be fair, there were plenty of ruses in the health care reform reconciliation, so it is not as if one party is clean--this is legislative politics. But the charges now emanating from Republicans that the Democrats are going to be responsible for a huge tax hike is, shall we say, bemusing.

[AEI.org, 7/21/10, emphasis added]

Ezra Klein: Reconciliation Maneuver Meant "Twisting A Budget Process Meant To Reduce The Deficit." According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

In order to maximize the size of the cuts, Republicans had to minimize the influence of minority Democrats on the package. So they chose to run the bill through the reconciliation process. But that posed some challenges. Budget reconciliation had never been used to increase the deficit. In fact, it specifically existed to decrease the deficit. That's why one of its rules was that you couldn't use it to increase the deficit outside the budget window. Republicans realized they could take that very literally: The budget window was 10 years. So if the tax cuts expired after 10 years, they wouldn't increase the deficit outside the budget window. They'd also have the added benefit of appearing less costly in the Congressional Budget Office's estimates, as the CBO duly scored them as expiring after 10 years, which kept the long-range budget picture from exploding.

But the plan was never to have the tax cuts expire. Instead, the idea was that people would get used to the new tax rates, and no future Congress would want to allow a big tax increase, so when the time came, either Republicans in office would extend the cuts or Republicans in the minority would hammer Democrats until they extended them. And that's where we are now: Democrats control the government, so Republicans are screaming about tax increases as a way to get Democrats to extend tax cuts.

It's really hard to know where to start with this one. It's not a tax increase passed into law by Democrats. It's a reversion to old tax rates passed into law by Republicans. It's not how law is supposed to work. It's the result of twisting a budget process meant to reduce the deficit so you could use it to massively increase the deficit.

[Washington Post, 7/19/10, emphasis added]

Face the Nation

CLAIM: Civil Rights Commissioner Abigail Thompson Misrepresented A Poll To Claim That The Tea Party Is "Completely Representative Of America"

Civil Rights Commissioner Abigail Thompson: A Gallup poll has shown the Tea Party movement is completely representative of America.

FACT: March Gallup Poll Showed Some Demographic Similarities Between Tea Party Activists And All U.S. Adults...

March Gallup Poll: Tea Party Similar To National Adult Population In Age, Employment, Education, And Broad Racial Categories. According to Gallup:

In several other respects, however -- their age, educational background, employment status, and race -- Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.

[Gallup.com, 4/5/10]

...But That Tea Party Activists Are Not Representative Of American Adults In Economic And Political Terms

March Gallup Poll: Tea Party Is Much More Conservative Than American Adult Population. According to Gallup:

Tea Party supporters are decidedly Republican and conservative in their leanings. Also, compared with average Americans, supporters are slightly more likely to be male and less likely to be lower-income.

[Gallup.com, 4/5/10]

FACT: Polling Shows Tea Party Activists Are Overwhelmingly Republican...

Spring 2010 Gallup Polling: Tea Party Is 79% Republican, 15% Democrat. In a report on polling from March, May and June of 2010, Gallup published this chart:

[Gallup.com, 7/2/10]

April CBS/New York Times Poll: Tea Party Supporters Are 54% Republican, 5% Democrat, 66% "Usually" Or "Always" Vote Republican. According to the New York Times:

Supporters of the Tea Party movement are more likely to be men, over the age of 45, white, married, and either employed or retired. Few are unemployed. They are more affluent and more educated than most Americans. Almost all said they are registered to vote, and most are Republicans.


[New York Times, 4/14/10]

March Quinnipiac Poll: 74% Of Tea Party Supporters Identify With GOP. In a report on polling done in March, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute wrote:

Looking at voters who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement:

  • 74 percent are Republicans or independent voters leaning Republican;
  • 16 percent are Democrats or independent voters leaning Democratic;
  • 5 percent are solidly independent;
  • 45 percent are men;
  • 55 percent are women;
  • 88 percent are white;
  • 77 percent voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008;
  • 15 percent voted for President Barack Obama.

[Quinnipiac.edu, 3/24/10]

July Gallup Report: "Tea Party Movement Is More A Rebranding Of Core Republicanism Than A New...Entity On The American Political Scene." In a summary of polling from March, May and June, Gallup's Frank Newport wrote: "There is significant overlap between Americans who identify as supporters of the Tea Party movement and those who identify as conservative Republicans. Their similar ideological makeup and views suggest that the Tea Party movement is more a rebranding of core Republicanism than a new or distinct entity on the American political scene... Conservative Republicans outnumber moderate/liberal Republicans in the general population by about a 2-to-1 margin; among Tea Party supporters, the ratio is well more than 3 to 1. More generally, almost 8 out of 10 Tea Party supporters are Republicans, compared with 44% of all national adults." [Gallup.com, 7/2/10]

...While America Is Not

Poll Aggregator Pollster.com Finds That American Adults Identify More With Independents (35%) Than Democrats (32.5%) Or Republicans (26%). Pollster.com's summary chart of national party ID among all adults looks like this:

[Pollster.com, accessed 7/25/10]