As scornful as the media were of conservatives last year, they were just as adoring of top liberals, as documented by the MRC's Best Notable Quotables of 2010. Topping the MRC's annual "Media Hero Award," ABC's World News anchor Diane Sawyer fawned over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the passage of ObamaCare in March:
“All agree she gets credit for locking up this vote, one of the biggest since Medicare in the 1960s. And she’s said to have done it with an epic blend of persuasion, muscle and will, even when half the town said it couldn’t be done....Their indefatigable, unwavering almost 70-year-old Speaker, mother of five, grandmother of seven....[to Pelosi] What do you think your dad and your mom would have said about this moment?”
“On this first Monday in October, the Supreme Court opened its new term today,” an excited Diane Sawyer announced Monday night, trumpeting how it's “making history for America's mothers, sisters and daughters.” ABC reporter Terry Moran was even more thrilled, marveling that “the most remarkable thing in that courtroom today, on this historic day, was how unremarkable it was.”
Despite the lack anything “remarkable,” however, Moran found new Justice Elena Kagan's performance quite remarkable, trumpeting “the one word that leapt to my mind was 'ready,'” touting how “she was confident and well prepared and fluent and probing” and, at one moment, “you could almost...imagine some of the other justices...looking down the bench at Justice Kagan like a major league scout might say, 'you know, that kid's got some real pop on her fastball.'”
An eager Sawyer wondered: “How was Justice Kagan on her first day?” A giddy Moran expounded:
After some discussion of a Gallup poll showing Americans have little trust in the mainstream media, host Uma Pemmaraju shifted the discussion to the new Supreme Court study from Times Watch. (Watch the video here.)
Fox News Host Uma Pemmaraju: "But there's another poll, out right now that looks at media behavior as well and specifically how the media handles the Supreme Court nominees, how are those related?"
For almost 20 years, in this new era of activist groups and activist reporters, The New York Times has covered Supreme Court fights with a heavy finger on the scales of justice, tipping the balance. They have painted conservatives as highly controversial and dangerously ideological, while liberal nominees were presented as "brilliant" moderates who were only newsworthy in that they were often laudably "historic" choices, or, in Kagan's case, she was not only "brilliant," but "very funny, warm and witty."
For Supremely Slanted, Times Watch analyzed the arc of coverage over the last two decades and the last seven Supreme Court justices, from Clarence Thomas's nomination in 1991 to Elena Kagan's confirmation in 2010, and found stark differences in how the Times reported on the four Justices nominated by Democrats versus the three nominated by Republicans.
Times Watch examined every substantive New York Times news story on each nomination, starting with the official presidential announcement and ending with the Senate vote confirming the nominee to the Supreme Court. Among the findings:
A stark pro-Democratic double standard in labeling:
- The Times demonstrated a 10-1 disparity in labeling "conservative" justices nominated by Republicans compared to "liberal" ones nominated by Democrats.
- In all, the three Republican-nominated justices were labeled "conservative" 105 times, while the four justices nominated by Democrats were labeled liberal on just 14 occasions.
Robert B. McNeil Jr., of Alexandria, insisted “there hasn't been even a single ‘liberal’ on the court in years.” He recommended:
The Post should recognize philosophical reality and refer to the “moderate” and “conservative” wings of the court, although “moderate” and “radical-conservative” would be more accurate.
The battle against the nomination was always a losing battle, but Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., made an impassioned defense of his position.
The news equally excited the TV network journalists. “History was made in this country today when the Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court,” declared fill-in NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt as viewers were treated to a “Making History” on-screen graphic.
“Tonight on World News, a day of high court history. Elena Kagan confirmed. For the first time ever, three women will be part of deciding the law of the land,” spouted a giddy Diane Sawyer in matching NBC by making Kagan her lead story. Sawyer could hardly contain her excitement:
We are here in Washington on the day a new voice joins the Supreme Court. Elena Kagan, the third woman currently on the court, a woman with a reputation for holding her own in any room. And our Jonathan Karl is right here to tell us about the big vote right over there on Capitol Hill. And I want to know what happens when a new justice dons the robe for the first time, Jon?
Elena Kagan's record clearly demonstrates she's a liberal, but to Rachel Maddow, she's just not liberal enough to be an "actual liberal." While she did a bit of a victory lap with Newsweek's Dahlia Lithwick on Tuesday night that the Republicans failed to scare people about Kagan and "nobody was terrified," Maddow still felt Obama wimped out by not picking an obvious radical leftist:
LITHWICK: At the end of the day you have a nominee who just utterly slid under the radar. And I don't know how the fundraising went but I know that the narrative was "She's fine, yawn. She's fine."
MADDOW: Yes. Well, should liberals look back at this experience? I mean, we're not out of it yet but should they essentially look back and say, "An actual liberal, a real -- a more liberal justice could have gotten through here?"
LITHWICK: I think so. It seems to me that to the extent that Obama had a moment to put someone a little bit more -- a little closer to a Stevens legacy or a Brennan legacy, a little closer to a passionate firebrand, this would have been the moment to put them up if the rumors are -- and they're only rumors -- true that Ginsburg is going to leave while Obama is still in office.
During the July 2 edition of Bloomberg Television’s Political Capital, Bloomberg News columnist Margaret Carlson exalted Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Carlson stated she would vote for Kagan "twice" because "It has been so long since I saw someone in public life joyful about being there." [audio available here]
The gushing didn't stop there for Carlson who continued to adorn Kagan for her impeccable "intellectual ability" and "temperament," despite admitting that there was little substance known about Kagan. This however was not important to Carlson who then proceeded to fawn over Kagan's joke that "brought the house down."
The shallow and promotional TV coverage of Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings illustrated once again how the shamelessly ABC, CBS, and NBC shape the political Play-Doh they offer to the American people as “news.”
First, there was the amount of coverage.Let’s put it this way: “coverage” is the wrong word. Entire days of hearings, filled with tough exchanges with Republicans on issues like the military, “gay marriage,” and abortion were swept under the rug. Instead, the one talking point every viewer was supposed to remember was this: Kagan is funny! She is really, really funny!
At one point in the hearings, they discussed the Obama administration’s very unfunny failure to stop the Christmas Day bomber from almost blowing up a plane as it landed in Detroit. That somehow turned into a joke about Kagan’s Jewishness. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has seemed desperate to ingratiate himself with Obama’s nominees, set Kagan up to joke that she probably spent Christmas at a Chinese restaurant.
There have been a lot of complaints from the left over the opposition Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan has faced from Senate Republicans in her battle to win confirmation. But Kagan proponents should have seen this day coming when Democrats in the Senate did the same things to try to slow the confirmations of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
On CBS's July 4 "Face the Nation," CBS legal correspondent Jan Crawford explained why. Previously throughout these types of confirmation processes, the Senate would approve a President's nominee, assuming the candidate was qualified. But President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. all set a new precedence when George W. Bush was president.
"Historically, [Kagan] would have been confirmed like Justice Ginsburg was, 96-3, or Justice Breyer, 87-9, but things changed. I mean, things changed 10 years ago, when Democrats started filibustering President Bush's qualified nominees," Crawford said. "I had a talk about all this -- I guess, what, five or six years ago with Mitch McConnell. You know, he said memories are long in the U.S. Senate. People remember what the Democrats -- including President Obama, Vice President Biden, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy -- did."
GQ Magazine's Washington correspondent Ana Marie Cox agreed with Smith and added: "...a Saturday Night Live skit made live, in part because she looks exactly like Rachel Dratch. And it's perfect because Al Franken is on the committee. And I kept on watching like waiting for someone to burst into song or Unfrozen Caveman Senator." Radio host Jane Pratt chimed in: "Her joke was good, the Chinese food joke was good." Smith remarked: "Very funny. Sunday night, and Christmas."
On Wednesday's Good Morning America on ABC, news reader Juju Chang noted Kagan's "lively sense of humor" and later asked co-hosts George Stephanopoulos and Elizabeth Vargas "who is going to play her in the SNL skit?" Vargas replied: "I don't think they could be as funny as Elena Kagan was!"