University of Chicago law professor Todd Henderson was annoyed, too, but for a different reason. He said he believed liberals held a double standard for their annoyance with conservative fondness of Brett Kavanaugh’s backstory. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s backstory — her race and ethnicity — also played a role in her nomination and confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.
The left in 2009 praised Sotomayor’s backstory. The right did it now with Kavanaugh. What’s the difference? So he tweeted.
“I’m old enough to remember when a second-class intellect like Sotomayor got onto the Court because her Latinaness gave us insight into her soul,” Henderson said, later apologizing for the impression his words left. He told The Washington Post that though he disagrees with Sotomayor’s judicial opinions, he supported her 2009 nomination.
“My point was merely that she nominated based more on her backstory than on the quality of her judicial opinions,” Henderson wrote in an email. “This means to me that Judge Kavanaugh’s backstory, although very different, might be relevant, too. If how people experience life or act outside of the written page is relevant, then it should not just be ethnicity and race, but other things as well.”
His perspective was not appreciated by the users who inundated his mentions with angry tweets.
“What qualifies you to decide Sotomayor is a second class intellect,” someone tweeted.
“You literally just said Sotomayor got her job because she’s a minority. Racist,” said another.
“Or perhaps you are allowing bias to enter your analysis with a touch of racist??” a user said.
Users noted both Henderson and Sotomayor attended Princeton University, though she graduated with higher honors.
“Twitter is a terrible place to make an arguments,” Henderson said, adding he has no plans to reactivate his Twitter account. “I welcome debate, but not uncharitable vitriol.” Henderson told The Post that his outlook on the matter is subjective and that his views on Sotomayor’s qualifications are held by others.
Sotomayor, who did not respond to a request for comment, was nominated by former president Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court with a two-thirds majority in 2009.
University spokesman Marielle Sainvilus told The Post in a statement that the institution is “deeply committed to the values of academic freedom and the free expression of ideas” and that it “does not limit the comments of faculty members nor mandate apologies for such comments, unless there has been a violation of University policy or the law.”
Henderson was criticized on campus earlier this year after supporting the Edmund Burke Society‘s right to free speech. The society said America allowed “foreign bodies to enter is inviting disease into the body politic.”
Henderson in the Chicago Maroon said that he detests the language the group used but that the “best way to counter speech I disagree with is to speak against it.”
“Isn’t debating ideas that make us uncomfortable why we are all at the University of Chicago?”