CNN's Joe Johns Pits 'Conservative' Opponents of Voting Rights Act Against 'Civil Rights Advocates'

CNN's Joe Johns pitted some "conservatives" against "civil rights advocates" on Tuesday in provocative fashion, after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

"I think you can say this is a home run for conservatives who said this law shouldn't be in place and this is a big loss for those civil rights advocates who have been fighting to go sustain this law year after year for decades, Carol," Johns reported from the Supreme Court steps on Tuesday morning. [Video below the break. Audio here.]

Johns added that the decision "effectively, for many, guts the entire Voting Rights Act."

Johns ignored that many "conservatives" might agree with the Court's striking down of Section Four while still upholding the core of the law that "civil rights advocates" championed, namely the federal government overriding state laws that were discriminatory to minority voters.

Instead, Johns' sweeping analysis made "conservatives" look like they opposed the "civil rights advocates," instead of opposing a section of the law that had to do with how certain states complied with it. 

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on June 25 at 10:41 a.m. EDT:

CAROL COSTELLO: As you know, the U.S. Supreme Court has now issued a ruling in a key voting rights case regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Supreme Court ruled that federal oversight of elections will continue in states with a past history of discrimination. But there are caveats to that. So let's get to Joe Johns. He's at the U.S. Supreme Court. What does this ruling say, Joe?

JOE JOHNS: Well Carol, I was inside for this decision and essentially what it says is there are two provisions of the Voting Rights Act which were in question, Section Four, Section Five. Section Four is a coverage provision, which states around the country are covered. Essentially what happened was, the Court said, we're throwing out Section Four. And this effectively, for many, guts the entire Voting Rights Act. So watching the justices, which is what I did, I just got a real sense of struggle on this Court. The five justices who were in the majority, the conservatives all reading the opinion along with Chief Justice Roberts as he read it, the four justices in the minority, that would be the liberals, staring stone-faced out into the audience in the Supreme Court. So just a sense, I think, of sadness there, of struggle on this very hard-fought case. And it was interesting, also, watching the Chief Justice as he sort of tipped his hand saying the Voting Rights Act has done so much good to elimination discrimination in this country, but its time has come. He also really issued a huge rebuke to the United States Congress for not changing this built four years ago when they had the opportunity the last time the Supreme Court took a long look at it. So in sum, a real struggle here on the Supreme Court today as this closely-fought five-to-four decision is now released to the public. The next step, of course, is for Congress to attempt to change the Voting Rights Act. But, Carol, I can tell you, given the configuration of the United States Congress with Republicans controlling the House, the Democrats controlling the Senate, it doesn't look very likely that this part of the Voting Rights Act will be restored anytime soon. So a lot of people who work voting rights issues are going to have to resort to other means. Carol?

COSTELLO: And just to make it clear for our viewers, some of the states affected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, mostly Southern states, right? Including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and Mississippi. And what this ruling says is these states can no longer be singled out. They no longer have to have the federal government's approval to change their voting laws?

JOHNS: Yeah. That's the effective result of this decision. That this Voting Rights Act, which was targeted since 1965 towards certain states, many of them in the south, but some counties in a handful of other states are also covered, no longer can this coverage formula work. And if Congress wants to do this, they have to go back to the drawing board, start all over again. I think you can say this is a home run for conservatives who said this law shouldn't be in place and this is a big loss for those civil rights advocates who have been fighting to go sustain this law year after year for decades, Carol.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014