NBC Hails ‘Rock Star’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Touts ‘Hit’ Documentary

On Wednesday, NBC’s Today show offered a fawning love letter to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hailing the liberal member of the high court as a “rock star” and “box office powerhouse” due to the success of a new documentary about her life. The glowing segment never once mentioned her left-wing ideology or any of her critics.

“When you think of Hollywood’s leading ladies, maybe you think of Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock. Well, now, a silver-haired Supreme Court jurist has a surprise hit on the silver screen,” proclaimed co-host Savannah Guhtrie. Correspondent Jenna Bush Hager followed by cheering the bio-pic: “That’s right, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rock star? The justice, who’s known as the ‘Notorious RBG,’ can also call herself a box office powerhouse.”

 

 

The headline on screen throughout the segment blared: “Reigning ‘Supreme’; Ruth Bader Ginsburg Doc Becomes Box Office Hit.”

Calling Ginsburg “a belle of the law,” Hager explained that the jurist “is the focus of a surprise breakout box office hit.” The report that sounded more like movie trailer than journalism: “Titled RBG, the documentary is making headlines, topping charts, and bringing in crowds. The intimate profile, which has grossed close to $6 million since its limited release four weeks ago, chronicles the 85-year-old’s fierce commitment to gender equality...”

Hager featured a sounbite from the film’s director, Julie Cohen, who gushed: “...over the past few years, Justice Ginsberg has become something of a pop culture icon or even a rock star to a lot of millennials.”

The reporter marveled over Ginsburg’s supposed “icon” status:

Dubbed the “Notorious RBG,” a play on late-rapper Notorious BIG, Justice Ginsburg’s  image is behind everything from Halloween costumes and tattoos to t-shirts, pens, and mugs. She was nominated to the highest court in the country by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but her story of dissent goes back decades.

Cohen chimed in again: “The idea that people would worship a woman who’s 85 because they think she’s really smart and accomplishing something for society, that seems pretty cool to me.”

Co-host Hoda Kotb reacted to the story with a “wow.” Guthrie remarked that “it’s so funny to see her as a film star,” though fretted that Ginsburg may retire: “But a lot of people are wondering, you know, is she going to stay on the court? She is 85 years old, it’s a tough job.”

Hager assured her: “So it sounds like, according to the producer of this film, that yes, she is going to not retire, she’s gonna continue working. She travels all over the country speaking and she still works out three times a week.”

This was not the first time NBC offered a sycophantic review of the documentary, just weeks earlier, on May 4, NBC Nightly News went gaga over the film, with anchor Lester Holt telling viewers: “I’ll have a new look at the woman known as Notorious RBG, the Supreme Court justice with rock star status.”

Recently, both the Washington Post and the New York Times offered the same kind of hero worship, cheering the puff piece film as “the summer box office’s big winner” and Ginsburg as a “ninja warrior.”

It should be noted that NBC’s promotion of the Ginsburg documentary was more positive than its obituary of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. While the Today show referred to Scalia as a “giant on the bench” after his passing in February of 2016, correspondent Pete Williams made sure to point out “what a controversial figure Antonin Scalia became” and that he “staked out a position as a steadfast conservative.”

That kind of political labeling was completely missing from Wednesday’s Ginsburg coverage.

Here is a transcript of the May 30 report:

8:17 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: When you think of Hollywood’s leading ladies, maybe you think of Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock. Well, now, a silver-haired Supreme Court jurist has a surprise hit on the silver screen and Jenna’s got a closer look. Hey, Jenna, good morning.

JENNA BUSH HAGER: Hi, good morning. That’s right, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rock star? The justice, who’s known as the “Notorious RBG,” can also call herself a box office powerhouse.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Reigning “Supreme”; Ruth Bader Ginsburg Doc Becomes Box Office Hit]

RUTH BADER GINSBURG [RBG, MAGNOLIA PICTURES]: I ask no favor for my sex, all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.

HAGER: A belle of the law, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the focus of a surprise breakout box office hit.

GINSBURG: I did see myself as kind of a kindergarten teacher in those days because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.

HAGER: Titled RBG, the documentary is making headlines, topping charts, and bringing in crowds. The intimate profile, which has grossed close to $6 million since its limited release four weeks ago, chronicles the 85-year-old’s fierce commitment to gender equality, and her nearly six-decade long love affair with husband Martin Ginsberg, who passed away in 2010.

GINSBURG: I have had the great good fortune to share a life with a partner, truly extraordinary for his generation.

HAGER: Julie Cohen directed the documentary with friend Betsy West.  

JULIE COHEN: Supreme Court justice is considered untouchable and unknowable to a certain extent, but over the past few years, Justice Ginsberg has become something of a pop culture icon or even a rock star to a lot of millennials.

KATE MCKINNON [AS GINSBURG ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE]: I’m never step down now, you can’t get rid of me.

HAGER: The inspiration for skits on Saturday Night Live to bits on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

STEPHEN COLBERT: How strong are you on the Second Amendment? Because welcome to the gun show. Boom, boom, boom.

HAGER: Dubbed the “Notorious RBG,” a play on late-rapper Notorious BIG, Justice Ginsburg’s  image is behind everything from Halloween costumes and tattoos to t-shirts, pens, and mugs. She was nominated to the highest court in the country by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but her story of dissent goes back decades.

COHEN: She had what was a radical idea at the time, that women and men should be treated equally as a matter of constitutional principle.

GINSBURG: In my lifetime, I expect to see three, four, perhaps even more women on the high court bench, women not shaped from the same mold, but of different complexions.

COHEN: The idea that people would worship a woman who’s 85 because they think she’s really smart and accomplishing something for society, that seems pretty cool to me.

HODA KOTB: Wow.

GUTHRIE: It’s so funny to see her as a film star. But a lot of people are wondering, you know, is she going to stay on the court? She is 85 years old, it’s a tough job.

HAGER: So it sounds like, according to the producer of this film, that yes, she is going to not retire, she’s gonna continue working. She travels all over the country speaking and she still works out three times a week.

AL ROKER: Wow.

HAGER: She can plank for three minutes.

ROKER: Wow.

KOTB: Three minutes?

HAGER: I mean, I can’t even plank for one minute. But I have to say, watching this, it’s so much fun to see her, but also so important. She was a trailblazer.

HOTB: Wow.

HAGER: And when my kids aren’t watching Peppa Pig, I’m gonna have to make them watch this. [Laugter]

GUTHRIE: Thank you, Jenna.

KOTB: Thanks, Jenna

NB Daily Judiciary Liberals & Democrats NBC Today Video U.S. Supreme Court Savannah Guthrie Jenna Bush Hager Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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