ABC's Greenburg: Sotomayor Not 'Liberal Activist' But 'Almost Conservative'

Summing up Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's performance during four days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg on Thursday night asserted “Republicans argued her views on issues like abortion and gun rights, and her controversial speeches, proved Sotomayor was a liberal activist who would rely on empathy.”

But, Greenburg countered, “Sotomayor -- calmly, persistently, repeatedly -- described herself differently, sounding almost conservative.” To illustrate, Greenburg played this soundbite from Sotomayor: “The great beauty of this nation: that we do leave those law-making to our elected branches, and that we expect our courts to understand its limited role.” Greenburg at least noted “Republicans complained of a confirmation conversion.”

Earlier in her story, Greenburg, who admired how “she really kept her cool throughout,”  touted how “Sotomayor finally showed anger” as “she was steely when asked if she ignored the claims of white and Hispanic firefighters who sued for discrimination.”

(Greenburg wasn't the first reporter this week to attach a “conservative” description to Sotomayor. A BiasAlert item recounted how NPR's Nina Totenberg, on Monday's Charlie Rose, told the PBS host that  Sotomayor actually has “a pretty conservative record.” Totenberg claimed Sotomayor's record is “very much in the mainstream,” and that “you could say that she's more conservative than some members of the Supreme Court, including Justice Scalia, perhaps.”)

Greenburg's story on the Thursday, July 16 ABC's World News:

CHARLES GIBSON: Judge Sonia Sotomayor finished her confirmation hearing today. The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said his party will not delay a Senate vote on her Supreme Court nomination. That means it's all but certain she will be seated when the court meets in September. But it doesn't mean Republicans are satisfied with her views. Here's Jan Crawford Greenburg.

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: It was her final day of testimony, and Senators were blunt.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): And you have said some things that just bug the hell out of me.

GREENBURG: Sotomayor finally showed anger. She was steely when asked if she ignored the claims of white and Hispanic firefighters who sued for discrimination.

SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Did you fail to show the courage and discuss this issue openly with an in depth opinion?

SOTOMAYOR: Sir, no, I didn't show a lack of courage.

GREENBURG: Today, two of those firefighters testified against her.

LIEUTENANT BEN VARGAS, NEW HAVEN FIRE DEPARTMENT: I was shocked when I was not rewarded for this hard work and sacrifice, but I actually was penalized for it.

GREENBURG: Their case, and how Sotomayor and two judges dismissed their claims, dominated these hearings.

GRAHAM: You missed one of the biggest issues in the country, or you took a pass.

GREENBURG: Republicans argued her views on issues like abortion and gun rights, and her controversial speeches, proved Sotomayor was a liberal activist who would rely on empathy. But Sotomayor -- calmly, persistently, repeatedly -- described herself differently, sounding almost conservative.

SOTOMAYOR: The great beauty of this nation: that we do leave those law-making to our elected branches, and that we expect our courts to understand its limited role.

GREENBURG: Republicans complained of a confirmation conversion.

SENATOR JON CORNYN (R-TX), FROM SENATE HEARING: You appear to be a different person.

CORNYN, BEING INTERVIEWED: The real Sotomayor is just as mysterious now as when we started.

GREENBURG: But as her testimony ended, with confirmation all but assured, Senators on both sides had praise, and already were looking ahead.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): It is my belief that you are going to be a great Supreme Court justice.

GREENBURG: Now, Senator Graham started these hearings by telling Judge Sotomayor she would have to have a meltdown not to get confirmed, and we saw just the opposite. She really kept her cool throughout. Senators now say they expect to vote on her confirmation before they break for their August recess.
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