NPR's Nina Totenberg spent more than 4 minutes on Wednesday's Morning Edition to supposed ethical conflicts of interest for conservative Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Antonin Scalia. By contrast, Totenberg devoted only 17 seconds to the more current issue of liberal Justice Elena Kagan's service in the Obama administration as a factor in upcoming cases before the Court.
Host Renee Montagne introduced the correspondent's report by noting how both "liberal groups have chastised conservative justices for attending private conferences put on by conservative political interests, and conservative groups have responded by leveling some criticism in the other direction." However, the journalist devoted the first three minutes of a seven-and-a-half minute segment on the criticism launched at Clarence Thomas's wife from the left:
The video-game industry has won again in court, insisting on their right to make the most debased gaming experience imaginable and market it to children with little commercial restraint. On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 against California’s law mandating that children are not allowed to purchase “Mature” video games without a parent.
The political elites are celebrating the Court ruling as a victory for a vibrant First Amendment, rejectinthe very notion of social responsibility on the part of the video-game makers and their often-twisted conceptualization of what constitutes “fun” for children.
Ever since Justice Samuel Alito mouthed "not true" after an inaccurate partisan applause line at President Obama's State of the Union address earlier this year, some in the mainstream media have been keen on presenting the conservative wing of the Supreme Court as partisan political actors with an eye on sticking it to the Obama administration wherever possible.
Today, New York Daily News writer Richard Sisk dusted off the meme in a short item chock full of loaded language painting Alito and Chief Justice Roberts in a negative light (emphasis mine) for opting to "boycott" the 2011 State of the Union Address:
On Election Day, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Schwarzenegger vs. Entertainment Merchants Association. The irony of this case name was obvious: the celebrated violent-action-hero governor of California had signed a bill into law in 2005 forbidding the sale of ultraviolent video games to minors, a law that lower federal courts prevented from ever going into effect.
Why should the Supremes care about this? After all, a year before that, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed a law making it illegal for anyone under 14 years old to tan indoors under any circumstances. (Children from 14 to 18 can tan – with parental consent.) The fine for salon operators for each violation is as much as $2,500 per day. Somehow this did not become a cause celebre, and was not fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Indeed, 32 states are inhibiting the freedom of minors to tan, and no one cares.
But interfere with their right to fry their minds and there’s hell to pay. Video-game manufacturers don’t want politicians tampering with their sales to minors, so here comes the march of the First Amendment fundamentalists, who argue that the principle of freedom of speech covers the enthusiastic distribution and sale of every kind of child-corrupting media horror. For them there must be no helpful hurdle or brake for children to go around their parents and grab what Justice Samuel Alito called “the most violent, sadistic, graphic video game that can be developed.”
"Supreme Court extends gun rights" a headline on the Web site for the Chicago Tribune erroneously claims today.
The link on the page brought readers to a story entitled "Supreme Court extends gun rights in Chicago case." Here's the opening paragraph:
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court reversed a ruling upholding Chicago's ban today and extended the reach of the 2nd Amendment as a nationwide protection against laws that infringe the "right to keep and bear arms."
But that language suggests that the Court invented a right out of whole cloth rather than grounded its decision in the Constitution itself. In truth, what the Supreme Court found in McDonald v. City of Chicago was that the 2nd Amendment's guarantee of the individual's right to firearm ownership is incorporated to the states via the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause.
"The right to keep and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in an even handed manner," Justice Alito wrote for the Court.
During ABC's live special coverage of Roberts's nomination on July 19, 2005, then This Week host and former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos declared: "This is a very conservative man with a strong paper trail that proves it." NPR's Nina Totenberg could hardly contain her urge to label, using the word "conservative" several times during a July 23 appearance on Inside Washington: "John Roberts is a really conservative guy...he's a conservative Catholic....[President Bush] has given conservatives a hardline conservative."
The same labeling followed Alito's nomination months later. CBS's Bob Schieffer opened the October 31 Evening News by proclaiming: “Conservatives wanted a conservative on the Supreme Court, and said the President ought to risk a fight in the Senate to get one. Their wishes have been fulfilled.” Later that evening, on a special 7PM ET hour edition of CNN's The Situation Room, anchor Wolf Blitzer described: "...there is a new nomination and new controversy. A battle shapes up as the president picks a staunch conservative who could help reshape the U.S. Supreme Court."
In contrast, all three networks made a major deal out of the last person nominated by a Republican President for a slot on the Court, Justice Samuel Alito. Out of the first 21 stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows after Justice Alito’s selection, correspondents conveyed ten explicit “conservative” labels during the first 36 hours of coverage. In contrast, Graham documented just one “liberal” label in 14 Kagan stories during the equivalent time period after her selection.
In Alito’s case, the networks began trumpeting ideology from the moment he was picked. Anchor Charles Gibson opened ABC’s Special Report announcing Alito’s nomination: “He is very conservative. This is a liberal appellate court, but he is the most conservative member on it....The President has picked someone very conservative, but a very accomplished jurist as well.”
When George W. Bush nominated judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, the networks routinely described them as "conservative" and even "very conservative" and "ultraconservative." Last year they applied more “conservative” tags to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's critics than “liberal” labels to her.
But the early stories on President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan routinely avoided describing her as a liberal. In six evening news stories and eight morning news segments since her official press conference on Monday morning, the broadcast networks have employed only one liberal label, on CBS. ABC and NBC offered none.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer played a clip of the relevant portion of the President’s speech, where Mr. Obama condemned the Court for its recent decision on campaign finance regulations, and highlighted how Justice Alito shook his head and mouthed “not true” in response. Blitzer then turned to the panel for its take on the moment. His fellow anchor Campbell Brown, who was moderating the panel, first questioned Castellanos on Alito’s reaction: “Was that appropriate, Alex Castellanos, to have that kind of reaction from Alito when he said that?”
Last Wednesday, Keith Olbermann falsely compared statements Samuel Alito made during his 2006 Supreme Court confirmation hearings to the now controversial and seemingly racist remark Sonia Sotomayor uttered during a 2001 speech.
In her lecture to the Boalt School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, Barack Obama's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
By contrast, Alito in 2006 talked about his background indeed impacting his decisions, but never said that would make him "more often than not reach a better conclusion than" women of a different race.
Olbermann, as he so often does with his agenda-driven drivel, missed this obvious distinction (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript):
The Washington Post front page for May 27, 2009 announces the Sonia Sotomayor nomination to the Supreme Court with this large headline: "First Latina Picked for Supreme Court; GOP Faces Delicate Task in Opposition." There’s no reference to Sotomayor being a liberal.
Baker and Zeleny never directly acknowledged Sotomayor's liberal outlook, although there is enough in her judicial record (and her own words) to indicate her ideology.
President Obama announced Tuesday that he would nominate Sonia Sotomayor, a federal appeals judge in New York, to the Supreme Court, choosing a daughter of Puerto Rican parents who was raised in a Bronx public housing project to become the nation's first Hispanic justice.
In making his first pick for the court, Mr. Obama emphasized Judge Sotomayor's "extraordinary journey" from modest beginnings to the Ivy League and now the pinnacle of the judicial system. Casting her as the embodiment of the American dream, he touched off a confirmation battle that he hopes to wage over biography more than ideology.
Judge Sotomayor's past comments about how her sex and ethnicity shaped her decisions, and the role of appeals courts in making policy, generated instant conservative complaints that she is a judicial activist. Senate Republicans vowed to scrutinize her record. But with Democrats in reach of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, the White House appeared eager to dare Republicans to stand against a history-making nomination at a time when both parties are courting the growing Hispanic vote.
Again, the Times hinted at but didn't directly label Sotomayor with the still-damaging label of "liberal," never using the term to describe her.