Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsJustice Department developing strategies to shut down ‘sanctuary cities’: report Sally Yates slams Sessions on criminal justice reform Preet Bharara emailed DOJ about phone call from Trump: report MORE (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said he's glad that Newt Gingrich has retracted his charge that Sonia Sotomayor is a racist.

"I'm very glad he backed off," Sessions told CNN's Dana Bash. "I think that's unusual, that commentators do that, and I think it was very good that he did. I think that will help--help us. I think that will help us have a real good discussion about the serious issues that the nation faces and that the court faces."

Gingrich had previously called Sotomayor a racist, but retracted and semi-apologized for that claim earlier today.

The retractions come as some Republicans are worrying that over-the-top charges against Sotomayor could alienate Hispanic voters.

Sessions had previously said that the racism charges "would not be words that I would use," but had refused to criticize Gingrich (or Rush Limbaugh, who made a similar charge).