MSNBC Hosts Slam 'Patronizing' Questions by GOP Senator to Sotomayor

MSNBC hosts Tamron Hall and David Shuster on Tuesday repeatedly grumbled at the tough questions Senator Lindsey Graham posed to Sonia Sotomayor over the judge's ability to keep her feelings in check. At one point during live coverage, Shuster derided the lawmaker's remarks as "patronizing" and fretted that "the blogs are already going crazy over this." Hall saw the statements as insinuating the nominee is too "hot blooded."

The comments that drew the ire of the anchors were Graham's quizzing of Sotomayor as to reports that lawyers have found her difficult to deal with in the courtroom. Graham probed, "I never liked appearing before a judge who was a bully. Do you think you have a temperament problem?"

Co-host Hall vociferously objected to Graham's queries. Responding to news articles about the subject, she complained, "These are anonymous sources....One might read into this that he's [Graham] talking about her being a hot-blooded person or a woman who can't control her emotions."

Continuing to register outrage, Shuster later objected to Graham's insistence that Sotomayor should reflect on her possible temperament problem. The host fretted, "The possibility of patronizing, Tamron, with the idea that Lindsey Graham is suggesting to this very accomplished judge that she needs to reflect on something as a result of this hearing." He continued, "I mean, the blogs are already going crazy over this." .

A partial transcript of the segment, which aired during live coverage of the hearings at 4:54pm, follows:

DAVID SHUSTER: And so, there we heard one of the most interesting exchanges, perhaps, of the day. Lindsey Graham, of course, not only exploring the issue of the death penalty and abortion, but he started it with something that you were talking about yesterday. And that is one of the most dangerous political minefields for Republicans in this might have been the sort of whole way that Lindsey Graham approached the temperament issue. The idea that Judge Sotomayor's temperament is not fit to be on the court. A number of critics have written to that extent. And the way that Lindsey Graham did that by suggesting, "Do you think you have a temperament problem?" And then putting Sotomayor on the spot, responding "no," I would suggest, Tamron, that the way people view this might be pretty critical.

TAMRON HALL: Well, it's interesting, David, because the issue of temperament came up with anonymous sources. I believe it was in the Post, Washington Post that that story first came up. And you had many people who were going on the record, friends and co-workers, who say that she does not have a, quote, temperament issue. But lets bring in Chris Cillizza to talk about this. Chris, what do you make of Senator Graham's comments, him bringing up, again, anonymous sources referring to this judge's temperament? People are really critical of this right now and they're blogging about it.

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Well, you know, I think Republicans, Tamron, have been surprisingly aggressive actually in their questioning. I think, Jeff Sessions, the ranking member from Alabama, set the tone yesterday and then again today. Very pointedly questioning Sonia Sotomayor. I think that you saw Lindsey Graham in his own way- I think if you polled the Judiciary Committee, senator graham would probably win in terms of the best lawyer/litigator. He's someone-

TAMRON: Yeah, but Chris- I hate to interrupt you. But it's one thing to challenge her on the record. It's one thing to challenge her on that speech. "What did you mean by wise Latina?" It is another- isn't it- to ask her about temperament? What do you mean by that? These are anonymous sources. People are reading this as if- and they have a right to do so since these senators are reading into her comments, one might read into this that he's talking about her being a hot-blooded person or a woman who can't control her emotions.

CILLIZZA: First of all, I'm not going to speak for Senator Graham since I don't know, but second of all, yes, you're right, Tamron. I think it's always dangerous ground to get into when you veer from professional criticism to what could certainly be perceived as personal criticism. I think you're always on dangerous ground when that happens on politics. It's why politicians try and say "We try to keep it above board. We talk about the issues. So, I think that door is opened when you start talking about the temperment, but not knowing what was in Senator Graham's mind I can't guess by taking that line of questioning the way he did.

...

SHUSTER: The possibility of patronizing, Tamron, with the idea that Lindsey Graham is suggesting to this very accomplished judge that she needs to reflect on something as a result of this hearing. I mean, the blogs are already going crazy over this.

HALL: Yeah. It could be interpreted as taking a time-out like a child. Cool out and clear your head and get your temperament together. But, again, we don't want to interpret what anybody has to say. I'm sure that Senator Graham will explain his line of questioning. He did say that she, barring a meltdown would be confirmed, and he was very cordial to her. But, certainly, it takes one sentence to perk up ears and you have those ears now perked up.

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