Obama on Garland: 'Yeah, he’s a white guy, but he’s a really outstanding jurist'

President Obama on Thursday brushed aside concerns from some of his supporters that his Supreme Court nominee does not add diversity to the bench. 

Obama chose Judge Merrick Garland, a white man of Jewish faith, to serve on the nation’s highest court. Civil rights and progressive groups had urged the president to select a woman or a person of color as the nominee. 

“Well, he’s from Skokie,” Obama joked at a town hall at the University of Chicago School of Law, referring to the predominantly white Chicago suburb where Garland was raised. 

"Yeah, he’s a white guy, but he’s a really outstanding jurist. Sorry,” he added. 

The president spoke at the school where he once taught Thursday, where he urged Senate Republicans to end their Supreme Court blockade and give Garland a hearing and a vote.


But Obama is also trying to make sure his liberal supporters are motivated in what could be a months-long nomination battle.

He said he doesn’t think about a potential nominee's race, gender or sexual orientation when canvassing candidates to serve on the federal bench. 

“At no point did I say, ‘Oh, you know what, I need a black lesbian, you know, from Skokie in that slot. Can you find me one?’” he said. “That’s just not how I have approached it.”

Still, the president notes his record in “transforming the federal courts from a diversity standpoint,” noting that his two succesful nominees, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are women, while Sotomayor is the first Hispanic to serve in the nation's top court.

“The way I’ve thought about diversity is not to think about any single seat as, I’ve got fill this slot with this demographic,” he said. "But rather if I’ve got a broad set of nominations to make … how do I make sure I am intentional about that process so the talent of every potential candidate gets a fair look.

“That is in fact what has happened.”