ABC Features Sotomayor's Brother to Tout Salsa-loving Judge

"Good Morning America's" Claire Shipman on Wednesday conducted a fawning, mostly content-free interview with Supreme Court pick Sonia Sotomayor's brother about his sister's love for Salsa dancing, among other light topics. The ABC reporter asked Juan Sotomayor only one question on the substance of the nominee's comments that a "wise Latina" judge would come to a better conclusion than a white man.

After Shipman prompted, "I read somewhere she says she likes to party," the judge's sibling informed viewers, "She loves to party. She loves dancing. Had her 50th birthday party and she learned how to Salsa." Americans were also instructed on such pertinent information as the fact that, as a young girl, Sotomayor "loved reading Archie, and Casper and Richie Rich." Shipman, however, dwelled on Juan Sotomayor's anger towards criticism of his sister. She related, "And when we asked Juan what he thought about some conservative critics suggesting his sister is a racist, I thought he might jump out of his seat."

After Mr. Sotomayor decried attacks on his sister as "insulting," Shipman empathized, "It clearly makes you angry." And yet, the journalist spent almost no time discussing the actual substance of Sotomayor's 2001 speech to the University of California in which she asserted, "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." Shipman didn't note that the judge made similar comments in 1994 and 2003. Instead, she blandly queried, "The wise Latina comment. What do you think she meant by that?"

The ABC correspondent clearly seemed taken with the nominee's family. At the close of the interview, after hearing a story about how Ms. Sotomayor stood up for her little brother, Shipman gushed, "And what I love is that image of Sonia Sotomayor defending her little brother on the streets."

A transcript of the June 10 segment, which aired at 7:11am, follows:

7am tease

ROBIN ROBERTS: Judge Sonia Sotomayor's family speaks out. Her only brother with stern words for his sister's critics. We talk to him in an exclusive interview.

7:11

ROBERTS: We're going to turn, now to a GMA exclusive. This morning, the family of Judge Sonia Sotomayor is speaking out about the woman who could be America's next Supreme Court justice. With her confirmation hearings now set to begin next month, GMA senior national correspondent, Claire Shipman spoke to Sotomayor's younger brother about his sister's journey from the South Bronx to possibly the nation's highest court. Good morning, Claire.

ABC GRAPHIC: Sotomayor's Brother: Calls Critics: 'Derogatory and Insulting'

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning, Robin. Juan Sotomayor is Sonia's only sibling. We sat down with him at the Park Chester New York Public Library where their mother used to send them as kids to get their books, including those infamous Nancy Drew books. The two are extremely close. And when we asked Juan what he thought about some conservative critics suggesting his sister is a racist, I thought he might jump out of his seat.

DR. JUAN SOTOMAYOR (Sonia Sotomayor's brother): If I could create a Webster dictionary for the most insulting, derogatory, off-base comments that I've ever heard about a person, this is not the person that they're describing.

SHIPMAN: It clearly makes you angry.

SOTOMAYOR: Angry is just the beginning of the emotion that I could describe. It's insulting.

SHIPMAN: The wise Latina comment. What do you think she meant by that?

SOTOMAYOR: I'm not going to pretend I know what she was talking about. And I'm sure it was done in a context that was meant totally different than it was taken out of. It's not my place to say that. [Touring the old family neighborhood with Shipman.] I was- 1964, seven-years-years old.

SHIPMAN: It's an emotional reunion for Juan Sotomayor with the Bronx neighborhood where he grew up. He hasn't been back for years.

SOTOMAYOR: That's my apartment, right there on the second floor.

SHIPMAN: On the second floor? The one with the air conditioner?

SOTOMAYOR: The air conditioner was our room.

SHIPMAN: Like his sister, he moved up and out. He now is a doctor now in Syracuse. But he knows he and his sister learned many permanent lessons on these rough streets.

SOTOMAYOR: Got mugged multiple times. Have my bike stolen.

SHIPMAN: What was that like for your sister? I know she was older. So, in some sense, she was probably protecting you.

SOTOMAYOR: My sister was tough as nails. And she first learned her negotiating powers early. And she figured if she couldn't negotiate, she'd go into step two. She didn't have a problem.

SHIPMAN: Step two? What was step two?

SOTOMAYOR: Protecting me.

SHIPMAN: The two siblings who lost their father early are extraordinarily close. And the displays of affection and pride at their old high school, finally unearthed some unexpected I motion. So, what do you think about the display?

SOTOMAYOR: I'm just so proud of her.

SHIPMAN: Are you?

SOTOMAYOR: It's just overwhelming. You just don't understand how a brother could feel. You know, you live with someone your whole life. You know? It's just great.

SHIPMAN: Juan confirms that it was Mrs. Sotomayor who encouraged them both to excel and dream, filling the house with barely affordable encyclopedias. And, yes, Nancy Drew. But young Sonia had a less-than-serious side.

SOTOMAYOR: She loved comic books. And she loved reading Archie, and Casper and Richie Rich.

SHIPMAN: And something else. I read somewhere she says she likes to party.

SOTOMAYOR: She loves to party. She loves dancing. Had her 50th birthday party and she learned how to Salsa.

SHIPMAN: But her most defining characteristic, her ability to stay grounded, even about a nomination to the Supreme Court.

SOTOMAYOR: So, we didn't talk about it very much. I think the only thing she said to me was, "Hey, they paid for my flight to Washington." She's on a budget. She's not- you know? We're not lifestyles of the rich and famous, certainly.

SHIPMAN: Clearly hasn't changed much. And what I love is that image of Sonia Sotomayor defending her little brother on the streets. We're obviously going to learn a lot more about Sonia Sotomayor next month when the hearings begin.

ROBERTS: And how proud he is of her. How he had to walk away when he was so emotional.

SHIPMAN: He didn't want to talk about the tears. I kept saying, 'Tears are okay. They're okay now.'

ROBERTS: Thanks for bringing that to us, Claire. Appreciate that.

CHRIS CUOMO: Especially about his sister in that situation, if anything's going to tear you up.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org