Monday's evening newscasts carried the same message. On ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas called Alito a "staunch conservative," while Terry Moran found him "deeply conservative." CBS's John Roberts said that "if confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O'Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction." In contrast, NBC's Brian Williams, agreed Alito was "dependably conservative" but he also saw an "independent streak," as did reporter Pete Williams.
Despite the labeling, Alito's career — Justice Department lawyer, U.S. attorney, federal judge — is not that of an activist. In contrast, Clinton nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg had solid activist credentials as director of the Women's Rights Project for the ACLU, but reporters were loath to assign her a liberal label.
On the June 14, 1993 NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell termed Ginsburg "a judicial moderate and a pioneer for women's rights." The next morning on ABC, Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden asked legal editor Arthur Miller: "We hear words like ‘centrist,' ‘moderate,' ‘consensus builder.' How will she fit into this court?" Miller, a longtime friend of Ginsburg, predicted (wrongly) that she'd be a centrist Justice.The morning after Judge Alito's selection, all three network shows featured both a liberal critic of Alito and a conservative supporter. But the morning after Judge Ginsburg's selection 12 years ago, the only guests invited to discuss Ginsburg were from the Clinton White House or her personal admirers. And the only complaints forwarded to audiences came from pro-abortion activists worried that the liberal feminist Ginsburg wasn't hardline enough on Roe v. Wade.
There was conservative opposition to Ginsburg from groups such as the National Right-to-Life Committee, but the broadcast networks just ignored it in their rush to gush (although CNN, to its credit, did include pro-life critics in their Ginsburg coverage.)
Now, the same hard left activists who worried about Ginsburg's purity are getting airtime to complain about Alito's supposed extremism. "I think it may even require the Democrats to filibuster," pro-abortion activist Kate Michelman claimed on Tuesday's Good Morning America. But 12 years ago, conservative activists troubled by Ginsburg's selection were shut out of TV coverage that celebrated her "centrism."