Heartbreak City: Here’s How ABC/CBS/NBC Handled Friday’s SCOTUS Cases (Hint: Not Well)

June 30th, 2023 7:16 PM

Just as they did on Thursday morning, the major broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC each broke in Friday morning for the final Supreme Court cases of the session, which were President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan (Biden v. Nebraska) and a free speech case involving a  Christian web designer and LGBTQ individuals (303 Creative LLC v. Elenis). 

While the takes weren’t as scorching as Thursday, Friday featured slanted takes bemoaning what the Court striking down multi-hundred billion dollar student loan forgiveness will do to the economy and claiming without evidence that ruling for webmaster Lorie Smith will open the doors to LGBTQ discrimination.

Before she fully read the opinion, NBC chief legal correspondent Laura Jarrett (the daughter of Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett) hadn’t even read the opinion before citing the three liberal justices in oral arguments wondering what a win for Smith would mean for interracial couples.

“[D]iscriminating on the basis of race, everyone kind of gets their arms around that situation...But in this case, how is it different, how is it different in the case of somebody who wants to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation versus race,” she wondered.

Surprisingly, once she studied it, came off as incredibly sober. That included this key fact echoed by former Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas clerk Jennifer Mascott (click “expand”):

MASCOTT: In the framing of the opinion at the beginning, the justices are trying to explain and give a sense of the scope here, that Ms. Smith came in and said she was willing to work, obviously with all clients regardless of background, and would not discriminate on the basis of protected characteristics. But in this case, the Court was conceiving of this as a pure speech case, they used that phrase in the opinion. They see this law in Colorado as one that would have operated to force Ms. Smith to produce messages with which she disagreed as a religious matter. So, that was clearly important to the justices here. And just like in the past that the court has decided that school districts cannot, for example, compel people to pledge to the flag, or salute the flag, here Colorado cannot force someone to put a message on a cake that is squarely in disagreement with their religious beliefs.


JARRETT: Justice Gorsuch is very honed in on the idea that the state of Colorado stipulated, which means it agreed, to a number of things, and I think that that might have tipped the scales in this case. He writes here, Savannah, “the parties have stipulated that Ms. Smith seeks to engage in expressive activity.” It's pure speech. I think that that's a really powerful thing. Because if the state hadn't stipulated to that, if it hadn't stipulated to the idea that she's making customized art, if it hadn't stipulated to the idea he's the a public accommodation. Remember, she's not a restaurant. She's not holding herself out to the public in that type of way. Certainly, she's offering her services to everybody. But if the state hadn't made those stipulations, I think this might have been a different case.

White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, however, stayed on the emotional track, speculating the White House would “note today's date, June 30th, a final day of pride month, and that this decision coming at that time is particularly painful to the LGBTQ community because of what the concerns are about how this could be employed in other states, how it could be interpreted, and...brings about a lot of concern about how this will impact the everyday lives of gay Americans.”

After recapping what both sides of the Court said in oral arguments, she, of course, touted Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent about the case havd been “discrimination based on message, not status” and triggered concerns because “many Americans...won't know the specifics of what was argued in this case and what really brought about this clear ruling.”

Later, O’Donnell again held up Sotomayor and touted her comparison of LGBTQ people deserving “equal treatment” in the same way that disabled people are at, say, sporting events.

Worse yet, O’Donnell promoted Sotomayor’s insinuation that allowing businesspeople like Smith to live out their beliefs in their jobs would be “unsafe” for LGBTQ people to the point they could suffer the fate of Matthew Shepherd (even though, contrary to popular belief, his murder was the result of a drug deal gone bad).

Legal analysts Danny Cevallos and Carol Lan were also on Team Sotomayor (click “expand”):

CEVALLOS: And, the liberal justices, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Justice Sotomayor pointed this out in oral arguments, saying this is a slippery slope. You can imagine how this would be a distinction without a difference, ho, very quickly, someone can say for example I do specialized photographs and while I will serve an interracial couple or a Muslim couple, as soon as they ask to be in the photograph and I say, well, wait a minute, I don't do photographs of interracial couples or anything else I don't want to do a photograph of, you can see how very quickly the — considering serving a particular customer can quickly become discrimination disguised as an argument against compelled speech.


LAN: I think it's very important to note that the majority opinion makes it quite — quite an effort to say this is really limited to this case and the facts of this case. And it then goes on to sort of criticize the dissents for what they say are sort of flights of imagination, all these hypotheticals, and they say those — those cases are not this case, you know, don't talk about providing chairs, don't talk about — don’t talk about not providing services to people that we're not talking about here, you know? The law, the way jurisprudence goes in the courts is you are only supposed to decide the case in front of you at that moment, and not decide other cases. As Danny has pointed out, there does appear that there will be a slippery slope here, there will be a lot more legal challenges to other providers of services in the future who say, you know, this is a work of art, this is my speech, the way I tie the bows on the chairs for a wedding is, for example, a — a form of expression, a form of my speech. The majority opinion here says, don't go there, that's not what we're deciding today. 

With this stacked deck, Human Rights Campaign president Kelly Robinson felt right at home on NBC in lambasting the “dangerous decision” and “dangerous precedent” for gay couples.

On student loans, CNBC’s Brian Cheung implied striking down the plan would be a net negative for consumers and the economy:

[F]or individual households, this could have been savings of a few hundred dollars per month...[T]his would be so impactful for a lot of Americans that maybe had been excited about the prospect of having that extra money as a cushion...specifically low income and, in many cases. minority families.

Moving to ABC, weekend Good Morning America co-host Whit Johnson sought to spell doom on 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis case, falsely claiming a “lack of limits” in the ruling’s impact on businesses being able to refuse service.

Nonetheless, contributor Kate Shaw (and wife of MSNBC host Chris Hayes) cheered Sotomayor’s warnings (click “expand”):

You know, Whit, this really is I think, an enormous change. Justice Sotomayor, I think, is quite right in her dissent. You know, these public accommodation laws have a lengthy historical pedigree. They've been part of our federal laws for over 70 years. And in most states and localities, there are similar laws. And they just say that if you're a business and you provide goods or services to the public, you can't discriminate. And in recent years, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sometimes gender identity has also been prohibited in many places, including in Colorado. And until now, the Supreme Court has never said that one of those laws violates the First Amendment rights of a business or business owner who wishes to refuse service to some category of customers. So, I do think that Devin is exactly right that this case has potentially sweeping ramifications for the ability of business owners under some circumstances to provide services and to — to the ability of customers, I should say, to receive services on a nondiscriminatory basis, you know, in the public square. And it's not something that the Supreme Court has ever blessed. As long as we've had public accommodation laws, there have been objections sometimes religiously grounded objections, and the Court has never sided with those, has always upheld these laws. And so this is a very significant and, I think, very new rule the court has set forth today.

Chief White House correspondent and Biden apple polisher Mary Bruce enthusiastically touted Biden’s social liberalism while, moments later, longtime correspondent Terry Moran embodied the liberal media’s sudden insistence that precedence be sacrosanct and seethed over the Court as like a horse with “the bit in its teeth” (click “expand”): 

BRUCE: I suspect he will speak out forcefully against this. Of course, Joe Biden is someone who has spoken passionately about how everyone deserves to be treated equally with dignity and respect, no matter who you love. His administration has already passed new federal protections for same-sex couples...[T]his is Joe Biden, someone who led a real national political transformation on the issue of same-sex marriage coming out in 2012, surprising many with his support for same sex marriage.  That was a watershed moment in this country[.]


MORAN: Since these three judge justices appointed by Donald Trump have taken the bench, you've seen how fast and far the Court can go. Abortion rights? Gone. Affirmative action? Gone. Today, traditional understanding of public accommodation that, if you hold out your business as a public business open to all, you must serve all. The Court limiting that today on the basis of free speech rights. And there's more to come. This is clearly a Supreme Court with the bit between its teeth with the conservative majority, not just in charge, but really eager to reach out and accomplish goals the conservative movement has had for decades now. We're seeing the impact in law and in life in this country, and they aren't done yet by a long shot.

As for the student loans case, Shaw offered a meltdown masquerading as sober legal analysis claiming Team Biden argued “Congress passed a statute giving the administration, the secretary of education, in particular, the power” and the Court shouldn’t be questioning something already on the books.

Bruce also had spin with a side of glee on behalf of her friends in the White House: “[T]he President is going to make very clear, I'm told, that Republicans are to blame for this. He's going to try and pin this squarely on them as we head into the election.”

On CBS, correspondent Christina Ruffini fretted the student loan plan would have been to benefit black women as, according to Ruffini, they’re “the biggest holders of student debt” and they “voted overwhelmingly for President Biden.”

In turn, he wanted to reward “his constituents” for “help[ing]” to “get him in office.”

But, now that it’s gone, she fretted this was another instance where, given “a split Congress, and with a conservative Court, it is increasingly difficult for the Biden administration to take the executive actions to make policy when it keeps getting bounced back.”

CBS Mornings co-host Nate Burleson agreed, fretting that the Americans with loans “will have to restart those payments — the money they were saving for possibly cars or even homes will have to be put on hold if this is indeed the case.”

And, on 303 Creative, Burleson later commented before signing off that it’s an open question as to whether the Supreme Court has “allow[ed] a range of businesses to discriminate for a variety of reason or” whether it’s “as simple as not forcing an artist to do work that is against their beliefs.”

To see the relevant transcripts from June 30, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).