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Aides: 'Latina' remark 'not a big deal'

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor

has not been asked directly if her 2001 comment about how a "wise Latina" would make a better decision than a white male was poorly worded as the White House claimed, according to advisors familiar with the Capitol Hill meetings that Sotomayor has completed thus far today.

When asked about the "wise Latina" speech excerpt, the president has responded, "I'm sure she would have restated it." 

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, "I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point that personal experience are relevant for the process of the judging."

According to the advisors, the judge has not been asked to re-state or retract what she said in 2001, but has been asked to discuss more broadly what she meant and whether personal background should influence legal opinion.

On the matter of the "wise Latina" comment, aides involved in the confirmation process with Sotomayor lay out an argument say that the judge's critics have focused "on a line from a speech" rather than taking issue with her judicial record. 

Aides said the controversial comment "is not a big deal to us" during this process and suggest, "There is no disagreement that diversity is good on the bench."

To mitigate critical reactions to the 2001 quote, advisors expect to highlight instances when Justices Alito, Ginsburg, Thomas and former Justice O'Connor have also described how their life experiences inform their work.

The aides overall, though, said they are "pleased" with the day's meetings. The judge will have another round of courtesy meetings tomorrow.

NOTES: Some light color from the day… aides said Sotomayor "ran into" Sens. Collins, Boxer and Hagan in a ladies room near the Senate floor. There was a light-hearted conversation, they said, that women could also conduct official business in the restroom as men have for years.