On Wednesday, NBC’s Today examined President Trump’s short list of possible Supreme Court nominees by focusing almost entirely on how Democrats would oppose any of the “all white men” being considered. In contrast, CBS This Morning covered the same topic but actually highlighted conservative concerns surrounding the appointment.
During a report at the top of the NBC morning show, correspondent Peter Alexander mentioned the upcoming nomination by lamenting: “Insiders say the leading contenders are all federal appeals court judges appointed by George W. Bush – all white men.” He then touted how “Democrats are already gearing up for a fight after President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, never even got a hearing.”
In a full segment that followed, MSNBC anchor Steve Kornacki looked at Trump’s top three contenders and emphasized how much the choices would “rile up Democrats”:
...William Pryor....this is what the right has been waiting for, they left this seat vacant for the entire campaign, they wanted a conservative. This guy very out spoken on social issues. Here’s the con, on a level – a scale of one to ten, this fight would be an 11. There's all sorts of ammunition here for Democrats to go after. This would rile up Democrats to say the least....Here’s another contender, Neil Gorsuch....This is Antonin Scalia's seat, there’s some indications he shares the judicial philosophy, not the temperament. So maybe a little easier to get through a confirmation hearing. On the other hand, Democrats are fired up for this, they don’t think this seat should have been left vacant. That may not give them too much reassurance.
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Only briefly at the end of the report did Kornacki acknowledge conservative objections to the third possible pick: “Thomas Hardiman....A little bit less of a paper trail here, that makes conservatives nervous. They want a slam dunk, they want to know one of their own is on this court for the long time. Maybe a few questions there, at least.”
At the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, after the President announced that his decision would be revealed on February 2, correspondent Hallie Jackson ran through the names again:
The top contenders? Neil Gorsuch, a conservative favorite who’s been compared to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. And Thomas Hardiman, strong on gun rights, who’s written several rulings siding with law enforcement. Less likely, but still in the mix, Williams Pryor, who once called the Roe v. Wade decision the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.”
Unlike NBC’s focus on Democratic complaints, on CBS This Morning, correspondent Jan Crawford kept the attention on conservative priorities:
President Trump has narrowed his focus to three top contenders, and the leading candidate is a Denver-based federal appeals court judge, Neil Gorsuch....But, I gotta say, I mean, this news has come as a disappointment to some conservatives. They were urging Trump to tap Alabama-based federal appeals judge William Pryor....But Democrats filibustered Pryor’s lower court nomination because of his views on abortion and sources say Senate Republicans have told the White House they are worried about his confirmation fight with Democrats.
She further observed: “President Trump is replacing a conservative icon, and if one of these nominees turns out to be more liberal than Justice Scalia, he will have actually turned the Court to the left. And that's why many conservatives were urging him to appoint a known principled conservative like Pryor.”
Here is a full transcript of Kornacki’s January 25 segment on Today:
7:10 AM ET
NATALIE MORALES: Well, as we said, President Trump is promising to nominate a new Supreme Court justice next week and NBC's Steve Kornacki has a closer look at three names in the running. And, Steve, before we get to your short list, let's talk first about what is going to need to happen in order to push through his nominee and what kind of fight can President Trump expect from Democrats?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Who Are the High Court Contenders? Trump Close to Naming Nominee for Supreme Court]
STEVE KORNACKI: Oh, this is interesting, the fight [coughs] – excuse me, the fight over the fight. Because of course you have this rule in the Senate, traditionally, the filibuster. If the opposition party doesn't like the President's pick, they can force you to get 60 votes. Well, there's been some chipping away at that by the Democrats over the last few years. And now, here's a hint that Republicans, if Democrats try to mount a filibuster, maybe they'll go all the way, they’ll change the rules again, they’ll destroy the filibuster, they’ll just need 50 votes. Bottom line, if they want to do that, they can.
MATT LAUER: Let's talk about the names we’re going to be hearing a lot about in the next couple of days.
KORNACKI: Yeah, so we've got three here that NBC News is kind of focused in on. We think Trump may be down to these three, in fact. Here, one of them, William Pryor. Federal judge, but also a former politician, he was the attorney general of Alabama. If you look at the pros and cons here – this is a little bit of his biography – but if you look at the pros and cons here – see if we can get that – here we go, get that thing running. So first of all, this is what the right has been waiting for, they left this seat vacant for the entire campaign, they wanted a conservative. This guy very out spoken on social issues. Here’s the con, on a level – a scale of one to ten, this fight would be an 11. There's all sorts of ammunition here for Democrats to go after. This would rile up Democrats to say the least.
Here’s another contender, Neil Gorsuch. Again talking about a federal judge here, a little bit of his background for you. What are the pros and cons Trump might be looking at? Well, again, a low-key Scalia. This is Antonin Scalia's seat, there’s some indications he shares the judicial philosophy, not the temperament. So maybe a little easier to get through a confirmation hearing. On the other hand, Democrats are fired up for this, they don’t think this seat should have been left vacant. That may not give them too much reassurance.
A third possibility here, Thomas Hardiman, again, a federal judge. You can look at some of his background in terms of what Trump might be looking at here for pros and cons. It’s the life story, actually, biography here is interesting.
LAUER: He drove a taxi, didn’t he?
KORNACKI: Yeah, he has a blue-collar family, Waltham, Mass. He drove a taxi in college, did not go to the Ivy League. A little bit of a different route than we usually see for these things. So they might be interested in that story. Also there's this idea of sort of a stealth factor. A little bit less of a paper trail here, that makes conservatives nervous. They want a slam dunk, they want to know one of their own is on this court for the long time. Maybe a few questions there, at least.
MORALES: A little more of a dark horse then on him?
LAUER: Steve, nicely done, thank you very much.