NYT, MSNBC Uncritically Relay Reid's 'Five White Men' Rant Against Court's Hobby Lobby Majority

July 9th, 2014 9:15 PM

On Tuesday, Harry Reid told the press that "the one thing we're going to do, during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women's lives are not determined by virtue of five white men. This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous, and we're going to do something about it."

Obviously, Reid's statement assailing the Supreme Court majority in the Hobby Lobby decision is incorrect, as black African-American Clarence Thomas was among the five justices who defended the religious freedom of the Green family which owns and runs Hobby Lobby. Ordinarily, in an obvious gaffe involving a Democratic Party politican, coverage would be sparse. But in this case, there are at least two instances where an establishment press outlet actually reported Reid's statement without pointing out that it was wrong. One occurred at the New York Times.

Here is video of Reid making the statement quoted above:

In a Tuesday story which appeared in the Times's Wednesday print edition, reporter Robert Pear wrote the following (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Democrats Push Bill to Reverse Supreme Court Ruling on Contraceptives

Democrats in Congress said Tuesday that they had developed legislation to override the Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The bill would ensure that women had access to insurance coverage for birth control even if they worked for businesses that had religious objections.

The bill, put together in consultation with the Obama administration, would require for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage, along with other preventive health services, under the Affordable Care Act.

... Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, who led efforts by Senate Democrats to respond to the ruling, said: “Your health care decisions are not your boss’s business. Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women’s access to health care, I will.”

... The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said the legislation was high on his agenda.

“The one thing we’re going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men,” Mr. Reid said Tuesday. “This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous, and we’re going to do something about it. People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think they’re going to be treated unfavorably come November with the elections.”

... (The proposed law) says that an employer “shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service” where coverage is required under any provision of federal law. This requirement, it says, shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The bill does not amend that law. It explicitly preserves federal rules that provide an exemption for churches and other houses of worship that have religious objections to providing coverage for some or all contraceptives.

If what Reid, Murray and the Democrats in the Senate are doing doesn't change the actual wording of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it's hard to see how it would pass constitutional muster. From here, without an attempt to repeal a specific section or sections of RFRA, this is mere political theater without meaning or legal substance.

Pear did not correct Reid's racial characterization of the Hobby Lobby majority. Nor, perhaps more predictably, did MSNBC's Steven Benen in a report carried at Rachel Maddow's blog:

For the Senate Democratic leadership, the question isn’t whether the chamber will tackle this bill, but rather, when. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act will be near the top of his to-do list.

“The one thing we’re going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men,” Reid said.

Looking ahead, there are two broad angles to keep an eye on.

The first is whether the bill can pass legal muster. After all, it’s not as if the legislative branch can simply overturn a Supreme Court ruling by passing a bill.

But note that the Hobby Lobby ruling wasn’t based on the First Amendment, but rather, something called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) from the 1990s. The new proposal from Murray and her allies intends to clarify this area of the law; its constitutional merit is not in question.

The second is whether the bill has any chance at all of becoming law this year.

As explained above, I believe that the assertion in the last bolded passage is bogus. Specific language in RFRA must be removed. Especially after a Supreme Court ruling addressing its meaning, it seems absurd for the 2014 Senate to try to definitively declare what the 1993 Senate really intended.

It would appear that the Times and MSNBC don't mind looking as ignorant as Reid.

Sadly, Newsmax got sucked into reporting Reid's "five white men" comment without correcting it, as it merely summarized what the Times reported without taking a hard look at what they were relaying. We could us a little more vigilance over there, guys.

If Senate Democrats and the left get what they want, Hobby Lobby's owners will be forced by their consciences to go out of business, perhaps by shutting their doors and putting thousands of employees who are paid roughly twice the minimum wage out of work, or perhaps by selling their business to other parties not as concerned about being involved with the provision of drugs which, based on hard science, potentially kill pre-born babies. Neither result would be desirable.

The Associated Press went the more traditional media bias route in covering Reid's gaffe. Erica Werner's four-paragraph story acts as if it never happened:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the ruling was outrageous and the Senate will do something about it. He says women's lives cannot be determined by the decision of five men.

At least Ms. Werner didn't demonstrate how ignorant she and here wire service are — "merely" how dishonest.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.