CBS Highlights Liberal Justice's 'Impassioned Dissent' on Affirmative Action

The journalists at CBS This Morning, Wednesday, highlighted the "impassioned dissent" of liberal Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor on affirmative action. All three networks covered the 6-2 ruling upholding a state's right to ban race as a factor in public universities. But it was CBS's Jan Crawford who focused on the liberal anger, noting that Sotomayor "took the unusual step of reading [her dissent]  aloud." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] 

Crawford dramatically recounted, "She spent about 12 minutes really saying that the six justices in the majority just don't get it, that race still matters. It felt almost personal at times." The journalist added, "[Sotomayor] talked about the experiences young people face, racial indignities and discrimination and how race still matters and what the court did yesterday was put unique burdens on minorities."

According to Crawford, "what the justices did yesterday is basically change the playing field on affirmative action." She summarized the majority's conclusion, explaining it as "we're backing out of that debate." But none of the other networks spent as much time as Crawford on the liberal dissent.

ABC's Good Morning America offered a scant 29 seconds. 

News reader Paula Faris allowed that "supporters say it brings us one step closer to a color-blind Constitution." But she also noted Sotomayor's "blistering dissent," saying the justice "accused her colleagues of trying to 'wish away racial inequality.'"

NBC's Today didn't get to the story until 9:22am, almost two and a half hours into the program. The 22 second brief called the Michigan law "controversial" and recounted: 

NATALIE MORALES: U.S Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan's controversial ban on racial preferences in college admissions. In a 6-2 vote, the justices said Michigan voters have the right to change their state constitution to prohibit public colleges and universities from considering race in admissions decisions. Some call the ruling a blow to affirmative action. 

On Wednesday night, NBC and ABC featured the same teenage activist to deride the "disgusting" ruling, a decision that would create "a new Jim Crow." Neither network explained that Markeith Jones is a liberal activist. 

In 2013, when the Supreme Court sided with liberals on gay marriage, ABC, CBS and NBC reacted differently. Before the case, ABC hailed the "historic hearing on marriage equality."

NBC's Savannah Guthrie wondered, "will the justices make it legal in every state?"  

A transcript of the April 23 CBS This Morning segment, which aired at 7:13am ET, follows; 


CHARLIE ROSE: The Supreme Court says voters can make it illegal to consider race as a factor in college admissions. This morning, affirmative action foes are praising the decision. Jan Crawford is outside the Supreme Court where the justices had handed down that 6-2 ruling. Jan good morning. 

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, good morning. I mean what the justices did yesterday is basically change the playing field on affirmative action. If you think about this, for forty years the debate over affirmative action has been here at the Supreme Court. Yesterday they said we're backing out of that debate. 'We're going to let voters in the states decide if they want their public universities to use race when they're deciding which students to admit.' So that means states can use affirmative action if they want to but they don't have to. They upheld this Michigan ban on affirmative action. That's similar to bans in other states like California and Florida. And critics yesterday, Charlie and Norah, said they expect now other states across the country to follow those efforts. The debate on affirmative action really now will start heating up in the states.

NORAH O'DONNELL: So Jan, and to be clear, the court did not rule on the constitutionality of affirmative action, correct?

CRAWFORD: That's right. And they've said we're not going to ban affirmative action. It's permitted. Not required. States, voters, you decide what you want to do.    

ROSE: Jan, Justice Sotomayor issued an impassioned dissent.      

CRAWFORD: She did, Charlie. And she took the unusual step of reading it aloud, parts of it aloud from the bench. It was 58 pages long. She spent about 12 minutes really saying that the six justices in the majority just don't get it, that race still matters. It felt almost personal at times. Remember, she grew up in the Bronx. She talks about how she benefited personally from affirmative action when she went on to the top echelons in the Ivy League schools and law school. And so, yesterday she talked about the experiences young people face, racial indignities and discrimination and how race still matters and what the court did yesterday was put unique burdens on minorities. 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org