CBS Evening News Makes Sure to Hype Scalia’s ‘Controversial’ Texas Affirmative Action Remarks

As part of its coverage on Saturday following the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, CBS Evening News Saturday anchor Jim Axelrod made sure to invoke Scalia’s “controversial comments” from December regarding affirmative action. 

Following reports from senior legal correspondent Jan Crawford and Justice Department correspondent Paula Reid, Axelrod cited a statement from Chief Justice John Roberts and then went pivoted to hyping Scalia as “a fiery conservative” who led “a strict interpretation of the Constitution and known for his theatrical flare in the courtroom.”

Axelrod ruled that Scalia was a “rigid” person in his beliefs with marked “jabs directed at colleagues” and “sharply worded dissents and caustic attacks on liberal notions” that also “had an influence on a generations of young conservatives.”

“He issued thundererous dissents when the court upheld the right to abortion and in 2003 when it struck down the laws that targeted gays and lesbians,” he lamented. 

As the liberal media did back in December when this first happened, Axelrod ensured that he resurrected remarks Scalia made about affirmative action:

Scalia came under fire last December when he made controversial comments about an affirmative action case at the University of Texas at Austin. He said: “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to...a slower-track school where they do well.” 

While ABC’s Terry Moran tried to claim that Scalia “didn’t win much” during his tenure, Axelrod properly explained that Scalia was in the majority on a number of issues: 

What may have been his most important majority — in what may have his most important majority opinion, Scalia spoke for the Court in 2008, declaring for the first time that the Second Amendment gave Americans the right to own a gun for self-defense. He also played a key role in a series of 5-4 decisions that struck down campaign finance laws, and said all Americans, including corporations and unions have a free speech right to spend their money on election ads.

Moments later, Axelrod told GOP debate co-moderator Major Garrett that he’s hoping the South Carolina debate hours later on CBS “not only change the content of what's discussed, but also the tone in which it's discussed” with Scalia’s passing.

Garrett responded that it would “change the atmosphere” as “[c]andidates who might have come to this debate before the news of Scalia's passing with an intent to mix it up a bit more aggressively might lay back a little bit because they don't want to appear to be taking advantage of this very somber moment of national unity.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from the CBS Evening News on February 13 can be found below.

CBS Evening News
February 13, 2016
6:35 p.m. Eastern

JIM AXELROD: As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, Chief Justice Roberts had confirmed the death of Scalia and said at the time he was, quote, “an extraordinary individual, jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues.” A fiery conservative, Scalia came to the Court 30 years ago, appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. As a Justice, Scalia was a leading advocate for a strict interpretation of the constitution and known for his theatrical flare in the courtroom. His rigid conservatism and jabs directed at colleagues were well known. His sharply worded dissents and caustic attacks on liberal notions had an influence on a generations of young conservatives. He had a deep effect on the law. Born in Trenton, New Jersey, raised in Queens, the son of Italian immigrants was a high school valedictorian who studied at Georgetown University and got his law degree at Harvard. He issued thundererous dissents when the court upheld the right to abortion and in 2003 when it struck down the laws that targeted gays and lesbians. Scalia came under fire last December when he made controversial comments about an affirmative action case at the University of Texas at Austin. He said: “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to...a slower-track school where they do well.” What may have been his most important majority — in what may have his most important majority opinion, Scalia spoke for the Court in 2008, declaring for the first time that the Second Amendment gave Americans the right to own a gun for self-defense. He also played a key role in a series of 5-4 decisions that struck down campaign finance laws, and said all Americans, including corporations and unions have a free speech right to spend their money on election ads.

(....)

AXELROD: Major, that could go a couple of ways, I suppose. It could not only change the content of what's discussed, but also the tone in which it's discussed. 

MAJOR GARRETT: Certainly and I will tell you our debate team was prepared to ask all of these candidates their orientation to the Supreme Court, what characteristics they would look for in a potential nominee, because even before Justice Scalia's shocking passing, it was anticipated that the next president of the United States would have one, two, possibly three vacancies. So that was an issue that we were going to raise anyway. It now takes on much greater significance tonight. It also brings up the issue of the unexpected nature of crises and the American presidency and being able to deal with those and respond to them on the fly. Lastly, it may actually on the podiums tonight, Jim, change the atmosphere. Candidates who might have come to this debate before the news of Scalia's passing with an intent to mix it up a bit more aggressively might lay back a little bit because they don't want to appear to be taking advantage of this very somber moment of national unity. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center