NYT Lead Treats Kavanaugh as Guilty: 'Accusations...Blow to the Moral Authority' of Court

October 7th, 2018 4:57 PM

Brett Kavanaugh may have won his Supreme Court nomination, but New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak tried to defuse the excitement on the front page of Sunday’s paper: “Confirmation Battle May Have Eroded the Public Trust.” The online headline: “Confirming Kavanaugh: A Triumph for Conservatives, but a Blow to the Court’s Image.” That’s convenient timing. Liptak also warned with this liberal talking point: "It cannot help the court’s reputation that a third of its male justices have been questioned about sexual misconduct."

Liptak began:

For President Trump and for Senate Republicans, confirming Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice was a hard-won political victory. But for the conservative legal movement, it is a signal triumph, the culmination of a decades-long project that began in the Reagan era with the heady goal of capturing a solid majority on the nation’s highest court.

Now that conservatives have an apparent majority, the Supreme Court is now suddenly “injured and diminished”:

The fight to put Judge Kavanaugh on the court only widened that division. The confirmation process was a bare-knuckle brawl, and the nomination was muscled through by sheer force of political will. All of this inflicted collateral damage on the court, leaving it injured and diminished.

Liptak kept harping on that promised rightward shift:

In the long run, though, there is very little doubt that Chief Justice Roberts will lead the court to the right. The only question will be the pace of change. “This is going to be an extremely conservative Supreme Court,” said Tracey George, a law professor and political scientist at Vanderbilt University. “Even if Trump is not re-elected and a Democrat is elected, that is not going to change.”

Liptak, like his colleagues in the media, seems offended that conservative Kavanaugh would dare get emotional in defending himself against charges of being a gang rapist, and strangely concludes that the accusations alone have destroyed the court's "moral authority."

Judge Kavanaugh’s own testimony, laced with fiery attacks on Democrats, also undermined public confidence in the court, said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University.

“It pulled the cloak off the Wizard of Oz,” he said. “The court has a mystique all its own. Kavanaugh’s behavior at the latest confirmation hearing shattered that mystique. It’s going to be hard for the court to come back from that.”

At a hearing devoted to the sexual misconduct allegations against him, a raw and angry Judge Kavanaugh was disrespectful of the senators questioning him. He called the accusations “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” fueled by “revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”


The accusations themselves, strongly denied by Judge Kavanaugh but credited by much of the public, were a blow to the moral authority of the Supreme Court, particularly given that Justice Clarence Thomas faced claims of sexual harassment at his own confirmation hearings. It cannot help the court’s reputation that a third of its male justices have been questioned about sexual misconduct.

As if searching around for some solace, Liptak predicted that Kavanaugh’s reputation is permanently harmed thanks to video clips and emphasized a "devastating portrayal" on...Saturday Night Live?

There is a wild card in the digital era that may produce a more lasting effect this time, she added: video clips can live forever online. “People are sharing images of him from the hearing where he looks belligerent and certainly does not look judicial,” Professor George said, referring to Judge Kavanaugh. That’s not to mention a devastating portrayal of him on “Saturday Night Live” that has had 20 million views on YouTube.

Liptak made the same audacious anti-Kavanaugh argument in a front-page story September 29 after his testimony denying sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford: “Judge Kavanaugh was angry and emotional, embracing the language of slashing partisanship. His demeanor raised questions about his neutrality and temperament and whether the already fragile reputation of the Supreme Court as an institution devoted to law rather than politics would be threatened if he is confirmed.”