NPR's Totenberg Isn't Always Mean-spirited In Obituaries...If You're Liberal

Nina Totenberg's mean-spirited obituary about Robert Bork doesn't fully display her double standard, reporting just as favorably about her liberal friends as she does about her conservative adversaries. Take liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In 2010, Totenberg hosted "her friend" Ginsburg for a conversation at George Washington University, and last month, Totenberg gave the tribute to Justice Ginsburg at Glamour Magazine's Women of the Year awards: Ginsburg "quite simply, changed the world for women." 

On Twitter, @NPR_Not_Neutral noticed the Bork obit has quite a contrast in Totenberg's on-air valentine when Justice Ginsburg's husband of 56 years died in 2010. Earlier that year,  Naturally, Martin Ginsburg was a prince, and a chef, and a top golfer, and a famous tax lawyer:

NINA TOTENBERG: On the last day of the court term, less than 24 hours after her husband died, an ashen-faced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced her opinion for the court in one of the term's major cases. She was on the bench, she told colleagues, because Marty would have wanted it this way.

The Ginsburg marriage was one of those marvels of life, a 56-year marathon of love and support. The two met on a blind date at Cornell. She was 17. As he would later put it, she was a top student, he was a top golfer. That characterization belied his intellect, and she would often say he was the only person she ever dated who was interested in her brain.

Both were accepted at Harvard Law School, but when Marty was drafted in 1954, they went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma instead - a diversion that he would later say proved a stroke of good fortune.

Martin Ginsburg discovered his wife was a terrible cook – let’s guess she was like many feminists who associate cooking with domestic servitude. So he became great at that, as well as other things, but the best thing he did, apparently, was let her liberal genius rise to the High Court:

TOTENBERG: Marty Ginsburg, in addition to becoming a famous tax lawyer, became a famous chef. The couple's children at an early age banished their mother from the kitchen. The Ginsburgs complemented each other in ways too numerous to list. She was shy, introverted and soft spoken. He was witty and outgoing. Typical was his puckish description of why he moved teaching posts, from Columbia to Georgetown Law School. His wife, he deadpanned, had gotten a good job in Washington.

The Ginsburgs were partners not just in marriage but in law. It was a tax case that Marty brought to his wife's attention that set her on the path that made her famous: the legal fight for gender equality. When the Ginsburgs won the case in the lower courts, the government appealed, declaring that if the decision stood, it would cast a cloud of doubt over literally hundreds of federal statutes that treated men and women differently.

Prof. GINSBURG: These were the statutes that my wife then litigated against to overturn over the next decade.

TOTENBERG: Marty Ginsburg was always promoting his wife. Clinton administration officials said it was his relentless and artful behind-the-scenes lobbying that brought Ruth's name into the mix of potential Supreme Court nominees in 1993.

In recent weeks, facing a losing battle with cancer, Marty Ginsburg wrote to his wife that he had admired and loved her almost from the moment they met. Turning introspective about his own life, he told a friend: I think the most important thing I've done is to enable Ruth to do what she has done.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis