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Key Words: Ted Cruz, Ilya Shapiro under fire for criticizing Black woman for Supreme Court seat

““The fact that he’s willing to make a promise at the outset, that it must be a Black woman, I gotta say that’s offensive. You know, you know Black women are what,  6% of the U.S. population? He’s saying to 94% of Americans, ‘I don’t give a damn about you, you are ineligible.’””

— Ted Cruz, speaking during his podcast

Sen. Ted Cruz is criticizing President Joe Biden’s announcement that he will nominate a Black woman to fill the Supreme Court vacancy that will be left after Justice Stephen Breyer retires after this session. But the Texas Republican’s words are causing some backlash.

His comments came during “Verdict,” his personal podcast. The episode was titled, “Only Black women need apply,” a strong giveaway that he would frame the pick — the first Black woman ever to hold a seat on the bench, and only the third Black jurist in the 232-year history of the legal institution — through a racial lens.

Cruz also called it “an insult to Black women,” arguing that since Biden didn’t say he was looking for “the best jurist,” Biden’s pick will be seen as a form of affirmative action.

“If he came and said, ‘I’m gonna put the best jurist on the court’ and he looked at a number of people and he ended up nominating a Black woman, he could credibly say, ‘OK, I’m nominating the person who’s most qualified,’” Cruz said. “He’s not even pretending to say that. He’s saying, ‘If you’re a white guy, tough luck. If you’re a white woman, tough luck. You don’t qualify.’”

One top nominee is Ketanji Brown Jackson, who, last year, was confirmed to a position on the influential D.C. District Court by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

Cruz, who graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, is not the only notable right-leaning legal mind blasting the pick before its announcement — but he’s not facing professional backlash for it. The same can’t be said of Ilya Shapiro, a former Cato Institute vice president still contributing to the think tank, who was placed on leave from Georgetown University a day before he was scheduled to begin serving as senior lecturer and executive director for the law school’s Center for the Constitution.

Shapiro drew instant criticism when he tweeted — then deleted amidst the backlash — that Indian-American judge Sri Srinivasan should be chosen to replace Breyer instead of a “lesser black woman,” and mocked the “latest intersectionality hierarchy” of a decision.

Black students at Georgetown Law school demanded that Georgetown revoke his employment contract and “condemn his racist tweets.” The school’s dean, Bill Treanor, responded, “I have heard the pain and outrage of so many at Georgetown Law, and particularly from our black female students, staff, alumni, and faculty.”

Shapiro first apologized, then issued a quasi-apology, saying that he regretted “his poor choice of words, which undermined my message that nobody would be discriminated against for his or her skin color.

But after seeing and retweeting support for him on Twitter, he followed up, saying that he hoped the investigation would be “fair, impartial and professional, though there’s really not much to investigate.”

Biden’s gender specification for the next justice was a ground-breaking move not seen since the last Supreme Court vacancy, when then-President Donald Trump, in September 2020, said he would choose “a woman” to fill the seat left vacant when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. His announcement came a month before he chose Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat — and seemingly before he had a nominee in mind.

““It will be a woman — a very talented, very brilliant woman… We haven’t chosen yet, but we have numerous women on the list.””

— President Donald Trump, in September 2020

As ABC News noted, Ronald Reagan announced on the campaign trail that he would be nominating a woman to fill “one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration” were he elected. Reagan added, “It is time for a woman to sit among the highest jurists.”

The White House has also been battling claims that Biden’s pick would be an overt act at, as one reporter asked during a press conference last week, “virtue signaling.”

“We’d say that the fact that no Black woman has been nominated shows a deficiency of the past selection processes, not a lack of qualified candidates to be nominated to the Supreme Court,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded.

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