CBS Frames New Haven as 'Conservative' Justices vs 'Civil Rights Leaders'

In the midst of pretty balanced ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscast stories on the Ricci reverse discrimination case involving New Haven firefighters, who were victorious, one quibble: CBS's Wyatt Andrews framed the ruling as issued by the Supreme Court's “conservative” justices and opposed not by liberals but by “civil rights leaders,” as if the majority of justices who ruled against the racial discrimination were not advancing civil rights.

Andrews announced that “in a close 5 to 4 decision, the court's swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, sided with conservatives,” before he set up a soundbite from a representative of the NAACP: “Civil rights leaders also predicted an era of confusion over when minorities are protected and when they are not.” The NAACP's John Payton declared: “I think it hurts the cause of having a discrimination-free workplace.”

Neither ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg nor NBC's Pete Williams applied a conservative or liberal label.

The Andrews story on the Monday, June 29 CBS Evening News, joined in progress:
WYATT ANDREWS: ...The ruling focused on New Haven's decision to throw out its 2003 promotional exam for firefighters when no blacks made the cut for promotion. The city then said no one gets promoted including the whites. In a close 5 to 4 decision, the court's swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, sided with conservatives and wrote “this express race-based decision-making is prohibited” and even if the city was trying to protect minorities against an unfair test, Kennedy wrote, “there is no substantial basis in evidence this test was deficient.”

NEW HAVEN MAYOR JOHN DESTEFANO: A new set of rules was introduced.

ANDREWS: New Haven's Mayor said he would respect the decision but complained the city was obeying 38 years of civil rights law forbidding anything that caused a disparate impact against minorities.

DESTEFANO: The city was damned if they did and damned if they didn't.

ANDREWS: Civil rights leaders also predicted an era of confusion over when minorities are protected and when they are not.

JOHN PAYTON, NAACP: I think it hurts the cause of having a discrimination-free workplace.

ANDREWS: And yet, to the white firefighters, this ruling says discrimination works both ways.

FRANK RICCI, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: I think that this is just proof positive that people should be treated as individuals and not statistics.

ANDREWS: The ruling also cuts both ways for the Supreme Court's nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Opponent called today's ruling a legal rebuke of her lower court opinions that the whites had no case, but opponents say that she was on solid ground; she was following case law at the time.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center