Cloaked as 'Both Sides,' Nets Push 'Abortion Rights' Advocates' Concerns on Sotomayor

NBC and ABC on Thursday night framed stories around concerns of “abortion rights” advocates who want proof Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is on their side, but both cloaked their pieces around the proposition “both sides” of the debate are equally worried.

With “Where Does She Stand?” as the on-screen heading, as if there is genuine belief Obama would have selected the judge without knowing she'd uphold Roe v Wade, NBC anchor Lester Holt set up a story through the prism of pro-abortion activists as he announced that White House “spokesman Robert Gibbs says the President did not specifically ask her about the right to privacy, a key issue in the abortion debate.” Reporter Pete Williams proceeded to declare that Sotomayor's stand on abortion is “a mystery” as “both sides on the abortion issue agree...they're eager to know exactly what Sonia Sotomayor thinks about abortion and the constitution.” Viewers then heard only from one side, an “abortion rights advocate.”

Charles Gibson, with “Choosing Sides” as the tag on the screen, teased the lead World News story: “Both sides of the abortion debate demand to know where the President's Supreme Court pick stands on the issue.” Like Holt, ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg highlighted what concerns those on the left, how “Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama didn't discuss specific cases with Sotomayor, but was satisfied with her views on individual rights.” After a clip of Gibbs' reassurance to pro-abortion supporters -- “He left very comfortable with her interpretation of the constitution being similar to that of his” -- Greenburg concluded by echoing the fears of those who consider Roe v Wade sacrosanct: “But Sotomayor's record on abortion has yet to bear that out.”

Thursday's CBS Evening News, after a Wednesday story on how a political label cannot be applied to Sotomayer, didn't mention her.

Unlike ABC ad NBC, the Fox News Channel delivered the concerns of those on the right, as Special Report anchor Bret Baier introduced a story on how Sotomayor's “paper trail has many Second Amendment-boosters worried.” Reporter Shannon Bream explained:
The Supreme Court has ruled definitively that the Second Amendment does guarantee gun ownership rights to individuals, but some gun rights advocates worry that Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, may see things differently. Just months after the high court's June 2008 District of Columbia v Heller decision, Sotomayor signed on to one from the 2nd circuit ruling saying that states still maintain the right to regulate gun ownership...
The beginning of the story on the Thursday, May 28 NBC Nightly News:
LESTER HOLT: The White House said today President Obama is very comfortable that Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor shares his interpretation of the constitution. But spokesman Robert Gibbs says the President did not specifically ask her about the right to privacy, a key issue in the abortion debate.

PETE WILLIAMS: Ever since the Supreme Court decided Roe versus Wade 36 years ago, a nominee's view on abortion has been the dominant issue, but with this nominee, it's a mystery. Both sides on the abortion issue agree on this, they're eager to know exactly what Sonia Sotomayor thinks about abortion and the constitution.

NANCY NORTHRUP, ABORTION RIGHTS ADVOCATE: It is important that we not have a guessing game when we're talking about a justice who's going to take a seat on a court that was 5-4 in its last abortion decisions.

ABC's World News:
AN CRAWFORD GREENBERG: In this battle over Sotomayor's nomination, there appears to be unusual common ground on one of the nation's most divisive issues. On abortion, both sides in the contentious debate want to know more.

NANCY NORTHRUP, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: We simply don't know where Judge Sotomayor is on core constitutional protections in Roe versus Wade.

CHARMAINE YOEST, AMERICANS UNITED FOR LIFE: We need to know what her philosophy is and how she would approach a case if it came before her.

GREENBURG: In her eleven years as a federal appeals court judge, Sotomayor has never ruled directly on abortion rights. Her cases touched only on side issues in the broader abortion debate. That leaves both sides looking for clues...

Although her views on abortion are not known, some anti-abortion groups assume she would vote to uphold Roe versus Wade....

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama didn't discuss specific cases with Sotomayor, but was satisfied with her views on individual rights.

GIBBS: He left very comfortable with her interpretation of the constitution being similar to that of his.

GREENBURG: But Sotomayor's record on abortion has yet to bear that out.
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