On Thursday, all three network morning shows hyperventilated over the “earthquake” and “crisis” brought about by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing his retirement on Wednesday. In unison, hosts and correspondents predicted an “epic battle” over confirming whoever President Trump nominated to replace Kennedy. Reporters promised viewers months of “ugly” and “bitter” rancor in Washington over the appointment.
“And as political stories go, this is an earthquake, the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy,” Savannah Guthrie proclaimed at the top of NBC’s Today show. Fill-in co-host Willie Geist declared: “It certainly is. And if yesterday is any indication, we are in for a months-long bare-knuckle fight over this nominee.” Guthrie agreed: “Absolutely.”
Introducing a report on the topic minutes later, Geist asserted: “...a contentious fight over the future nominee already underway.” White House Correspondent Kristen Welker announced: “All of Washington is poised for a bruising battle, with Democrats arguing the process should be delayed beyond the midterms.” The headline on screen throughout the segment blared: “High Drama Over the High Court; Fierce Fight Expected Over Kennedy Replacement.”
Welker echoed that sentiment: “Democrats are already gearing up for a fierce fight, with Roe V. Wade, gay rights, and voting rights at stake.” The reporter justified the obstructionist attitude: “Many Democrats are still fuming after Republicans blocked former President Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland, in 2016.”
During a panel discussion that followed, Geist asked Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd: “What’s this next three, four months going to look like?” Todd lamented: “Look, I think it’s going to be extraordinarily ugly.” Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Todd offered similar pronouncements and complained: “Summer is going to suck.”
The Sunday show host continued: “I think you have a bunch of Senate Democrats still angry at how the Supreme Court opening, the Scalia seat, was handled both in ’16 and ’17. So I think there’s going to be some form of attempted revenge...”
That matched MSNBC host Chris Matthews, on Wednesday, calling for Democrats to exact “vengeance” on the GOP.
However, unlike the unhinged Hardball host, Todd admitted: “...I don’t know what that is. Like I don’t know, other than beating your chest and jumping up and down, I don’t know what more Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats can do.”
Todd then spent time speculating on how any Trump court pick could be voted down in the Senate, even suggesting Special Counsel Robert Mueller could play a role:
I think Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins are going to care what this potential justice is going to say about abortion. I think Jeff Flake is a wild card here, he’s a retiring senator, he’s already threatened to block some judges....He could easily gum things up. Let’s say the Mueller [investigation] has new things that come out. He [Flake] could be somebody that gums things up. Remember, they can only lose – without John McCain’s vote sitting there – they can only lose one vote on the Republican side at all and still hope to get there.
During repeat coverage of the story at the top of 8:00 a.m. ET hour, Guthrie reiterated: “The president could face a monumental confirmation battle as he gets ready to nominate a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.” Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson observed:
And yes, this will be a legacy-defining moment for Donald Trump, as the president gets ready to pick a new justice who could shift the court further to the right, something that could last a generation. But none of that will happen without first a summer of bitter political fighting on Capitol Hill.
“The battle now beginning. Republicans race to confirm a new justice as soon as possible and shape the court for a generation, as Democrats fight back,” hyped co-host George Stephanopoulos while leading off ABC’s Good Morning America. Moments later, substitute co-host Cecilia Vega chimed in: “And now, Congress is gearing up for what is sure to be a heated confirmation battle.” Co-host Robin Roberts confirmed: “Sure to be.”
In the report that followed, correspondent Terry Moran fretted that “this country is going to change profoundly” and described a Supreme Court “shaken to its core.”
Turning to Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl in the next segment, Stephanopoulos exclaimed: “As we’ve said, the Kennedy retirement has set the stage for a titanic fight over the future of the Supreme Court.” Karl noted that Trump would have a chance to fulfill his “promise to transform the Supreme Court” but only after “an epic confirmation battle.”
Moran returned at the top of the 8:00 a.m. ET hour to repeat the news and insisted: “It’s going to be an epic battle. The Democrats are furious, especially after Senate Republicans blocked President Obama’s nominee to replace justice Scalia, Merrick Garland.” The reporter added: “And the stakes could not be higher, George. This one, no question, is for all the marbles on this court.” Stephanopoulos predicted the “biggest political fight of the year.”
Co-host Norah O’Donnell began CBS This Morning’s coverage by warning of “what some say might end up being a crisis in Washington.” She then stated: “We are getting ready for huge battle in Washington over replacing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.”
Throughout the show, O’Donnell and fellow co-host Gayle King feared that abortion rights were “doomed” and Roe v. Wade was “going away.”
When a Democratic president has the chance to nominate a Supreme Court Justice, the media celebrate it as an historic occasion. When a Republican president fulfills the same constitutional duty, it’s a “crisis” that sparks an “epic battle.”