NY Times Cuts Up SCOTUS Pick Kavanaugh: 'Son of Privilege,' Father a ‘Swamp Creature’

July 15th, 2018 4:27 PM

The front page of Sunday’s New York Times brought the expected comprehensive dissection of President Trump’s second Supreme Court justice nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in 4,500 words: “Trump’s Choice: Beltway Insider Born And Bred – Father Was A Lobbyist – Supreme Court Nominee Is Being Promoted as Business Friendly.”

Five reporters were responsible for the story, led by Scott Shane and including legal reporters Adam Liptak and Charlie Savage. Even the more flattering online headline couldn’t skip the ideological labeling: “Influential Judge, Loyal Friend, Conservative Warrior -- and D.C. Insider.”

A photo caption online made the story's ideological tone clear: “The Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, center with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence, is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.”

The article includes 17 conservative labels, not counting quoted material, with either Kavanaugh himself or his political positions labeled conservative three times, while his background and associates garnering the remaining 14 instances. Successful Obama nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were introduced quite differently before their own confirmation hearings, as shown in the 2010 Media Research Center study Supremely Slanted. In contrast, there were a total of five liberal labels in the 85 stories the Times ran on the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation, and just four for Elena Kagan in 43 stories!

The worst came first in Sunday’s Kavanaugh report:

When Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh introduced himself to the American people on Monday, with a beaming President Trump beside him, he had a lot to say about his mother, a former high school teacher and a Maryland judge. He accorded his father strikingly less attention -- just 34 words, compared with 132 about his mother -- mentioning his “unparalleled work ethic” while not saying exactly what work he did.

Yet Ed Kavanaugh’s career may shed light on his son’s hostility to government regulation, a major reason conservatives are so enthralled by his nomination to the Supreme Court. He spent more than two decades in Washington as a top lobbyist for the cosmetics industry, courting Congress and combating regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. (Among his hires for legal work: John G. Roberts Jr., now the chief justice.)

In current parlance, as an old friend put it, the elder Mr. Kavanaugh and his associates were “swamp creatures,” using money and connections to fend off demands for safer products and greater transparency about ingredients. He was a golf partner of Tip O’Neill, the longtime Democratic House speaker, who weighed in to support Martha Kavanaugh’s nomination to a judgeship. He was paid $13 million, including his retirement package, in 2005, his last year at the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, records show.

Now Brett Kavanaugh, should he be confirmed, will cement a solid pro-business majority on the nation’s highest court, advancing Mr. Trump’s aim of dismantling the regulatory state, liberating industry from what he sees as burdensome rules. With critical battles over the environment and consumer protection headed for the courts, his ascent would likely achieve for industry incomparably more than all his father’s years of lobbying.

That is clearly the White House’s hope: An official fact sheet declares that “Judge Kavanaugh protects American businesses from illegal job-killing regulations” and -- in an unusual claim about a judge -- “has led the effort to rein in unaccountable independent agencies.” It is also one reason his confirmation is opposed by many advocates for consumers, environmental protection and workers.


They do not let on that Judge Kavanaugh is by legacy and experience a charter member of elite Washington.... Nor do they note that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.

From there the tone softened, somewhat.

Yet by many accounts, the conservative combatant of the Bill Clinton investigation and the 2000 Florida recount who has spent a dozen years as an appellate judge is also a generous friend, including to many Democrats; an authentic sports fanatic who keeps a beat-up basketball in his chambers; and a warmhearted family man.


Still, he was a son of privilege, at least by his teenage years, when his parents’ careers took off. His parents were featured in a 1985 Washington Post Magazine article about working with an interior designer to redecorate their brick Colonial, using tiles Ed Kavanaugh picked up in Portugal for a custom-made dining table and purchasing vases and a gilt wood carving from Hong Kong.