All three network evening newscasts on Monday downplayed the start of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, with NBC Nightly News squeezing in just 24 seconds for Kagan at the tail end of a story about the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor the 2nd Amendment. For their part, CBS and ABC offered full stories outlining Kagan’s first day before the Judiciary committee after packages devoted to the gun rights’ ruling.
Only CBS’s Jan Crawford suggested the hearings were more than a ritual leading to Kagan’s inevitable confirmation: “When President Obama nominated her in May, her confirmation was considered a sure bet. But Republicans are emboldened by what they see as a weakened president and sense that support for Kagan in the country has dropped.”
Both Crawford and ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl included Republican criticisms of Kagan’s lack of experience and the hostility to the military she displayed at the Harvard Law School. As for NBC, they mentioned none of those issues, and only included a brief soundbite of Kagan promising to be “impartial.”
Here’s the entirety of NBC’s brief discussion of Monday’s hearing:
Did you know that calling attention to an area where a Supreme Court justice nominee is from, which happens to be a well-known bastion of liberalism, is bigoted?
If you didn't, you want to take a look at the wisdom of Salon.com's Joan Walsh. In her June 28 post "It's not even coded bigotry anymore," Walsh argued that references to SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan's Upper West Side of Manhattan roots are bigoted -since the neighborhood has Jewish features, references to it are anti-Semitic and as she puts it, "not even coded."
"That said, Republicans on the Senate Judicial Committee are trying to make the case she's outside the mainstream of American jurisprudence, by attacking her clerking for (and admiring) legal giant Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, while singling her out as a denizen of ‘Manhattan's Upper West Side' - you know, the neighborhood known for Zabar's and bagels and, well, Jews," Walsh wrote.
From the morning to the evening Chris Matthews, during MSNBC's coverage of Elena Kagan's hearing on Monday, berated what he saw as GOP mistreatment of Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, calling their performance at times, a "brutal assault" and even evoking strange imagery of Kagan having pins stuck in her by Republicans. Early in the day the MSNBC host complained that Republican Senator Jeff Sessions engaged in "a brutal assault on this nomination" by calling her "pro-terrorist" and "anti-military." Matthews also claimed today's hearing reminded him of how Anita Hill was treated by Republicans during Clarence Thomas' hearings as he asked Democratic Senator Dick Durbin:
Some Republicans paid a heavy price for being tough with Anita Hill when she came to testify in the Clarence Thomas hearings. Have we gotten past that era of sensitivity about a bunch of guys going after a single woman here just bashing her?...Can these guys like Jeff Sessions just go at her like this without any fear of rebuke?
Then finally, in the evening, on Hardball, Matthews charged the GOP had turned Kagan "into a voodoo doll, and they keep putting pins in her,as a way ofgetting at President Obama."
The following exchanges are from live MSNBC coverage (as transcribed by MRC intern Matthew Hadro) of the Kagan hearings and the June 28 edition of Hardball:
MSNBC's Chris Matthews framed Sen. Jeff Sessions' criticism of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a "brutal assault," during MSNBC's live coverage of the Senate hearing Monday afternoon.
"It's a brutal assault on this nomination," Matthews complained about the Alabama Republican's remarks.
Matthews also seemed to cast Sessions as an unsophisticated country bumpkin challenging Kagan's prestigious Ivy League background.
"It's a strong cultural shot at her, and she does represent, if you will, academic excellence of the highest degree, coming from the best schools, dean of Harvard Law," Matthews crooned. "It's hard to get above that, to a person out in the country, from Alabama, like Jeff Sessions represents. That is probably a pretty rich target."
He accused Sessions of describing Kagan as pro-terrorist and tried to get liberal Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to say that Sessions' "assault" would whip up a storm.
Are the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings an occasion for media explanation...or celebration? The Washington Post Express tabloid ran this headline Monday: "Kagan's Big Day Finally Arrives." The copy underneath by AP reporter Nancy Benac sounds like a proud mother more than an objective journalist. She suggested "it may be her own words that best explain her success at charting an undeviating course to the front steps of the high court." She elaborated about Kagan's career, in sympathetic tones:
She's excelled by dint of hard work, smarts and what she describes as good "situation sense" - the ability to size up her surroundings and figure out what truly matters, as she put it during confirmation hearings for her last job, as President Barack Obama's solicitor general, the government's top lawyer.
It's what allowed Kagan to channel the thinking of legal giant Thurgood Marshall when she was a "27-year-old pipsqueak" clerk to the justice.
It's what allowed Kagan to navigate through the land mines of government policy on abortion, tobacco and other contentious issues as an adviser to President Bill Clinton.
The Monday morning shows on CBS, ABC, and NBC all worked to portray President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a moderate and open-minded legal scholar, downplaying her liberal views. All three network programs also minimized her controversial decision to ban military recruiters on campus while Dean of Harvard Law School.
On CBS's Early Show, legal correspondent Jan Crawford touted Kagan as "an intellectual heavyweight and consensus builder." Crawford noted how Republicans had "several lines of attack" against Kagan and would "try to paint her as a liberal activist." Crawford herself recently described Kagan as having "stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left."
On ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Claire Shipman did a fawning segment on Kagan in the 8AM ET hour, describing the former Dean as "intellectual" and "full of personal charm" during her tenure at Harvard. Shipman claimed that Kagan had "a determination to be open-minded," despite banning military recruiters from the university's campus over the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. On that issue, Shipman explained that despite Kagan's decision being unpopular "among student military vets....Iraq War veteran Kurt White says they were won over by Kagan's persistent outreach, another example of her political skills." Shipman failed to mention that White would be testifying on Kagan's behalf during the confirmation hearings.
When President Bush nominated John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court in 2005, the media did not hesitate to describe both men as "very conservative," but when President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan this year many in the press couldn't seem to identify any liberal ideology. The Media Research Center has produced a video compilation of examples to further demonstrate the obvious double standard. [Audio available here]
During ABC's live special coverage of Roberts's nomination on July 19, 2005, then This Week host and former Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos declared: "This is a very conservative man with a strong paper trail that proves it." NPR's Nina Totenberg could hardly contain her urge to label, using the word "conservative" several times during a July 23 appearance on Inside Washington: "John Roberts is a really conservative guy...he's a conservative Catholic....[President Bush] has given conservatives a hardline conservative."
The same labeling followed Alito's nomination months later. CBS's Bob Schieffer opened the October 31 Evening News by proclaiming: “Conservatives wanted a conservative on the Supreme Court, and said the President ought to risk a fight in the Senate to get one. Their wishes have been fulfilled.” Later that evening, on a special 7PM ET hour edition of CNN's The Situation Room, anchor Wolf Blitzer described: "...there is a new nomination and new controversy. A battle shapes up as the president picks a staunch conservative who could help reshape the U.S. Supreme Court."
When President Obama picked Elena Kagan to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the broadcast networks referred to the upcoming Senate confirmation process as “contentious” a “meat grinder” and a “battle,” warning Kagan was “in for a fight.”
But a Media Research Center analysis of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts in the six weeks since Kagan was nominated shows the broadcast networks have failed to cover the “fight,” and have ignored most of the controversies that could lead to suspenseful hearings next week.
MRC analysts found that the broadcast network evening newscasts aired just eleven stories about Kagan since her May 10 nomination (six on CBS, three on ABC and two on NBC), plus another three brief items read by the anchor. All but one of those stories appeared during the first week after Kagan’s selection; only the CBS Evening News, in a June 3 report, has bothered to cover any of the thousands of pages of Kagan documents released in recent weeks.
Borrowing a line from one of her Harvard colleagues, the Washington Post entitled its June 10 front-page profile of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, "Her work is her life is her work."*
But the 60-paragraph story by staff writers Ann Gerhart and Philip Rucker shed barely any light on the judicial philosophy that Kagan's life work demonstrates. Instead, Gerhart and Rucker presented a gauzy profile that rehashed the usual trivia -- Kagan loves poker and the opera -- while painting Kagan as a workaholic who still has time to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on to friends in distress:
She has arrived at the age of 50 in a blaze of accomplishment. But her achievements can obscure how relatively narrow her world has been.
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, CBS legal correspondent Jan Crawford revealed how the Obama White House is “strongly” pushing back against her unsurprising report last week that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan “stood shoulder to shoulder with the liberal left” when she clerked for liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Crawford says the White House reaction to her report “has been astonishing....Their reaction has been to push back so strongly on allegations, as they would put it, that she’s a liberal. Like there’s something wrong with that, like it’s a smear to say their nominee is a liberal.”
To Crawford, Team Obama’s strategy reeks of phoniness: “They’re putting enormous pressure on Elena Kagan who, as you said, is qualified. She’s an intellectual superstar. They’re putting pressure on her to portray herself in these hearings as something other than what she is. They’re thinking short-term politically and not long-term for the Court and the law and liberal judicial philosophy.”
This is probably what a lot of people suspected, but couldn't tie it all of it together until documents and memos from President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan were made available to the public - that she is beyond a shadow of a doubt liberal.
Still, the White House has insisted Kagan's judicial philosophy doesn't line up ideologically - that she is neither liberal nor conservative. But according to documents unearthed by CBS Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford, Kagan holds some very liberal views.
"These documents have her squarely within mainstream liberal thought," Crawford said on the June 6 broadcast of CBS's "Face the Nation." "She's worried about the conservative Supreme Court undoing rulings that would give a woman a right to an abortion. She's worried about gun rights saying she's not sympathetic to an individual's right to own a handgun. She's concerned about conservative rulings scaling back rights of criminals. That's basic mainstream liberal thought."
The Associated Press apparently thinks its readers are either too young or too stupid to remember something that happened thirteen years ago.
On Friday, the Clinton Presidential Library released formerly private documents from the '90s that revolved around Elena Kagan's stint as an advisor to President Clinton. Of particular interest was her encouraging Clinton to veto a ban on partial birth abortions for late-term babies.
When Clinton used his veto pen to stop the ban in 1997, it was intensely controversial. Media archives from that year show it was described as a "bitter battle" over something full of "public revulsion."
How things change in thirteen years. Now with a pro-choice Supreme Court nominee to get through confirmation hearings, the AP blatantly ignored history to portray Kagan's advice as common sense pragmatism.
Writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis penned a dispatch obviously designed to be as friendly as possible, even if that left a few facts out of the story (h/t LiveAction):
The United States is fighting two wars - in Iraq and Afghanistan - so it's natural that the nation's leaders have a solid understanding of what war is about. But President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court has no wartime experience and if she is confirmed, that would mean no member of the highest court would have served in the military in or near combat.
This is a major shift for a nation with a proud military tradition. In the past 100 years, the United States has fought two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the Gulf War. American servicemen and women fought in the Philippines, Grenada, Panama, Somalia and Bosnia and many more. Given the nature of the terror threat America faces, more countries probably will likely join that list.
The three major broadcast networks have ignored this issue since Obama's May 10 nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Kagan does not have any military experience and is considered by some as anti-military. Yet, out of 17 stories on ABC, CBS and NBC since Kagan was named, not one has even mentioned the issue of wartime experience.
This, despite liberal arguments that a judge's experience is key to his or her decisions, and that the most lionized of progressive Supreme Court justices was an emphatically proud veteran of the Civil War, whose tombstone lists his war service before his court tenure.
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Thursday touted Supreme Court collegiality from Justice Antonin Scalia as a real victory in the battle over Elena Kagan's nomination. Stephanopoulos enthused, "Justice Scalia, who is likely to be a conservative adversary if Kagan gets confirmed, pointed out that everybody on the bench now is a judge."
(Kagan is likely to be a conservative adversary? The ABC host appeared to be continuing the liberal talking point that the mind of Obama's nominee is somehow unknowable.)
Stephanopoulos eagerly quoted, "So, he went on to say, 'I'm happy to see that the latest nominee is not a federal judge and not a judge at all.' Of course, Kagan has gotten some criticism from some senators because she's not a judge."
Yesterday I tackled how Newsweek's Howard Fineman was attacking Kentucky Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul for picking a fight that the liberal media, in fact, was whipping up.
Today, it's Fineman colleague Ben Adler and his insistence that conservatives are fixated on smearing both Elena Kagan and softball players everywhere as gay.
Adler made his argument in his May 20 The Gaggle blog post, "What Is With Conservatives, Gays, and Softball" by picking apart a comment Fox Business Network's John Stossel made on Fox News Channel in which he defended Paul's comments regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964.What annoyed Adler most was Stossel's quip that gay softball leagues, for example, should not be forced to admit straight players:
The gay softball team? The proverbial black student association has long been every anti-civil-rights pundit's favorite shibboleth, but why suddenly gay softball team? Do gay people have separate softball teams that don't allow straight people to play for them? If so, it's still an awfully random example. Oh wait, no it isn't, it's a dog whistle to everyone who thinks that women who play softball are gay, and that therefore Solicitor General Elena Kagan is gay. Stay classy, John.
There are two problems with this. First and foremost, it was gay groups that first made a stink about an innocuous photo by the Wall Street Journal that was clearly selected as a clever tease for a story in the May 11 edition. The headline and caption for the Kagan-playing-softball photo were as follows:
Last Friday on TV, NPR legal reporter Nina Totenberg touted Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as "spectacularly successful" -- twice. But that was mellow compared to her Tuesday report for Morning Edition, where she enthusiastically pitched her record as dean of Harvard Law School as a Superman legend (The audio valentine is here):
NINA TOTENBERG: In some ways, the descriptions of Elena Kagan as dean sound a little bit like the beginning of the old "Superman" TV series.
INTRO TO OLD SUPERMAN TV SHOW: Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands!
TOTENBERG: Translate that to Harvard, and you can almost hear the music. (Superman music in background)
In 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama cast doubt on President Bush's pick of Harriet Miers in part because "her [legal] experience does not include serving as a judge" and as such "we have yet to know her views on many of the critical constitutional issues facing our country today."
Yet five years later, after President Obama named his solicitor general -- who has also never served as a judge -- to the Supreme Court, the media are not picking up on the parallels between the Miers pick and Obama's choice of Elena Kagan.
Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell discussed this on today's "Fox & Friends" program in an interview via satellite shortly before 8:30 a.m. EDT [MP3 audio available here].:
The Peabody folks claim they give their awards for "outstanding" journalism and "excellence." So just how clueless do you have to be to qualify? Take Katty Kay, the BBC's chief US correspondent, in New York today to pick up her prize. On Morning Joe, Kay got off a double-barreled dose of classic MSM-think:
1. She defended Elena Kagan's opposition to military recruiting on campus on the theory that the nominee is in the mainstream . . . of college deans.
2. Chatting with the man who made Third World micro-loans famous and who preaches business without profits, Kay fretted that the crash "has not been long enough" to turn people off capitalism.
NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory used an obvious double standard in his interviews with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Charles Schumer on the Elena Kagan Supreme Court nomination on Sunday. McConnell was grilled for hypocrisy in comparison to President Bush's clumsy Harriet Miers nomination in 2005 -- but Schumer was not. McConnell was accused of engaging in games that the people would protest as "This is the kind of politics I hate" -- but Schumer was not. Here's how the hardball was thrown, and thrown back:
GREGORY: But don't you think a lot of people look at Washington and say, "This is the kind of politics that I hate." Here you were, you stood up for Harriet Miers despite the fact that she was a friend of the president. You stood up for her despite the fact she didn't have judicial experience, but when it comes to a Democratic nominee you say, "Oh wait a minute, these are real problems here that have to be explored."
As a Sunday afternoon treat, here’s a sneak peek at the May 17 edition of MRC’s Notable Quotables newsletter, our bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media. The entire edition will be posted, with five video clips, at www.MRC.org on Monday morning.
Shortsighted Voters Fail to Grasp Obama’s Historic Greatness
“Big problems. Big achievements. Big costs. Historians say President Obama’s legislative record during a crisis-ridden presidency already puts him in a league with such consequential presidents as Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt. But polls show voters aren’t totally on board with his achievements, at least not yet, and the White House acknowledges that his victories have carried huge financial and political costs. ‘There are always costs in doing big things,’ Obama told USA Today.” — Opening of May 12 USA Today cover story by Susan Page and Mimi Hall, “Will doing ‘big things’ wind up costing Obama?” The accompanying picture showed a portrait of Abraham Lincoln peering down at President Obama.
On Friday night's edition of Inside Washington, NPR legal reporter Nina Totenberg twice used the term "spectacularly successful" to define Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Host Gordon Peterson asked her what "we" know so far:
We know she was a spectacularly successful dean at Harvard Law School where she was the first female dean -- that she just moved the place, got it really moving again. Students loved her. She knocked heads on the faculty to get hires done. She was a spectacularly successful policy bureaucrat in the Clinton White House.
And what you see right now is a spectacular demonstration of hypocrisy where Republicans who loved the fact that Harriet Miers didn't have judicial experience, because that was kind of needed on the Supreme Court , now they say it's a serious deficit. And Democrats, who used to want to know about someone's ideology, now say 'oh, it's improper to ask.'
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Friday cited a new poll and marveled to viewers that Barack Obama "is largely escaping blame for his handling of the [oil spill] crisis." (Note the passive way he framed that sentence.)
Reporter Jake Tapper discussed the government's reaction to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He proclaimed, "[Obama] is said to be angry and disappointed, not just at the delay, not just the fact that there are obviously steps that could be taken to help prevent this, but he's very disappointed about the finger-pointing that went on between all the corporations involved."
If Jonathan Alter's interview segment, on Friday's Today show with NBC's Meredith Vieira, is any indication of what to expect from his new book on the Obama presidency, readers should not look forward to an insightful, hard-hitting treatment of the President as the Newsweek columnist praised Obama as not "a phony" who has a "psychological health to him." On to plug his book, The Promise, Alter -- after being cued up by Vieira to explain why Obama's approval ratings remain "strong" in a new NBC News poll -- boiled it down to his bringing an "authenticity" and "thoughtfulness" to his presidency.
ALTER: He just doesn't seem like a phony and the people who deal with him every day feel this way. He's got a kind of psychological health to him and even if you don't like what he's doing, and I try to assess where he's succeeded and where he's failed, you have to respect the man. He, he brings a thoughtfulness to the process. And he does try to drill down into these decisions.
Alter also cited Obama's pick of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court as an example of him being a "conciliator" that harkens back to his days at Harvard University when he brought "liberals and conservatives together."
The following is the full interview as it was aired on the May 14 Today show:
Appearing on the May 13 "Hannity" program for a "Media Mash" segment, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell tackled the media coverage of the Elena Kagan nomination. After the Fox News host played some clips of network anchors focusing on how the Obama Court nominee loves opera, softball, and poker, Bozell noted it was par for the course.
While "from the moment he was nominated, [Clarence Thomas] was savaged," whenever a liberal is nominated by a Democratic president, the media label him or her a moderate and focus on humanizing them, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell noted.
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Thursday appeared frustrated that perceived successes by Barack Obama have failed to help his own party. The former Democratic operative turned journalist interviewed current Democratic operative James Carville and complained, "You know, you've seen over the last month health care passes. Jobs are being created. The President has an arms control agreement with the Russians."
Stephanopoulos added, "Yet, nothing seems to move these [poll] numbers." Back on March 1, 2010, the morning show host was more hopeful.
He repeated liberal talking points about the effect passing health care would have: "...The Democrats in the White House who are pushing for this strategy, pushing for passage, say that once this does pass, the country will get it. Democrats will be unified. They'll get a huge benefit."
MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday actually expressed some journalistic outrage over a White House PR video disguised as an interview, deriding the administration for "crossing a number of lines when it comes to journalism." An irritated Mitchell highlighted a video on the White House website that features Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. [Audio available here.]
Most other media outlets have ignored this story. Mitchell, however, complained to reporter Kelly O'Donnell: "But, the White House has gone overboard, I think some would suggest, in terms of the control of all of this."
Attacking the "pseudo interview," Mitchell mocked, "Doesn't this seem to you like they are really crossing a number of lines here when it comes to journalism and the proper approach to selling a justice?"
NBC’s Today offered a conservative counterpoint on the Elena Kagan nomination on Wednesday: conservative radio talker and author Laura Ingraham. Co-host Meredith Vieira suggested Republicans were hypocrites to suggest Kagan was inexperienced.
The top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, has said that her lack of experience to him is troubling. Yet when Harriet Miers was put up for consideration by President Bush five years ago he had no problem with the fact she had never served as a judge. So are Republicans not satisfied with these nominees, their lack of judicial experience only when they're not a Republican nominee? [audio available here]
Vieira seemed to be borrowing from the New York Daily News, which tracked down a Sessions statement on Miers from 2005 (but was given no credit by NBC). Vieira didn’t seem to consider that the Miers nomination went belly-up, so if Kagan was as qualified as Miers, then perhaps she shouldn’t make it to the high court, either. Ingraham answered that Kagan is out of the mainstream:
In the latest example of a pattern of opacity, the White House has cut off the press's access to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Kagan has extensive ties to journalists, which only serves as a testament to this administration's determination to control the message on its major initiatives, including Kagan's nomination.
"Tell her we're deeply frustrated," one reporter told White House press secretary Robert Gibbs of the administration's refusal to grant Kagan a traditional interview with the press. Kagan did do a short interview with a White House staff member released only online, in what CBS White House correspondent Peter Maer called "Kagan 'in her own words' without anyone else's words."
Washington Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason was harsher in her criticism. The White House interview "doesn't count toward the administration's 'accountability' totals," she wrote on the paper's Beltway Confidential blog. "It's just another campaign commercial, masquerading as openness."
As the MRC’s Tim Graham documented yesterday, ABC and NBC's morning and evening newscasts have so far refused to tag Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a “liberal,” with CBS’s Jan Crawford offering the sole ideological label of the nominee on Monday's Evening News: “Her career has put her solidly on the left.”
In contrast, all three networks made a major deal out of the last person nominated by a Republican President for a slot on the Court, Justice Samuel Alito. Out of the first 21 stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows after Justice Alito’s selection, correspondents conveyed ten explicit “conservative” labels during the first 36 hours of coverage. In contrast, Graham documented just one “liberal” label in 14 Kagan stories during the equivalent time period after her selection.
In Alito’s case, the networks began trumpeting ideology from the moment he was picked. Anchor Charles Gibson opened ABC’s Special Report announcing Alito’s nomination: “He is very conservative. This is a liberal appellate court, but he is the most conservative member on it....The President has picked someone very conservative, but a very accomplished jurist as well.”