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Newt backtracks on 'racist' remark

From NBC's Pete Williams

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now says he should not have used the word "racist" to describe Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Writing in the conservative "Human Events," he said, "The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted)."

"My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice. With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree," Gingrich added.