'Today' Bouquet to Ginsburg Pits 'Rights' Groups vs. 'Conservatives'

June 2nd, 2007 8:51 AM

In the MSM world of NBC, the only "rights" groups are liberal ones. And Supreme Court justices, at least women ones, are there to serve as advocates for their sex.

That was evident from the segment "Today" ran this morning, focusing on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The gist was that with Sandra Day O'Connor gone, it's a lonely struggle for Ginsburg as the high court's sole woman. "Today" portrayed that struggle not between liberals and conservatives, but between conservatives and various "rights" groups.

Campbell Brown introduced the segment.

'TODAY' WEEKEND TODAY CO-HOST CAMPELL BROWN: One thing as clear as the Court moves into its final weeks of the current session, it is much different place with just one female place among nine high court justices."

Why? If O'Connor had been replaced with a male who voted just like O'Connor, how would the Court be any different? Are justices there to represent their sex or race, or to apply the Constitution?

Pete Williams then took over.

NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT PETE WILLIAMS: For the first time in thirty years, the Supreme Court has upheld a ban on a specific abortion procedure even though it made no exception for a women's health. And just this week the Court made it harder for Americans to claim that discrimination on the job is affecting their pay, ruling against an Alabama woman who claimed Goodyear paid her far less than her male colleagues.

Williams didn't mention that the "specific abortion procedure" in question was the horrific partial birth abortion, which even the late liberal Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan described as "infanticide." Nor did Williams point out that so-called "health" exceptions have created a huge loophole rendering all such previous laws meaningless.

WILLIAMS: It's already clear this is a very different court, with Sandra Day O'Connor replaced by the more conservative Samuel Alito. . . As the only woman remaining on a more conservative court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has turned up the voltage in her dissents, twice this term taking the unusual step of announcing them from the bench. . . She offered a . . . biting dissent in the abortion case, suggesting the court's changes contributed to the outcome of the case, a point women's groups agree with.

We then heard from Eve Gartner, described as an "abortion rights lawyer." A quick Googling indicates she represents the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

EVE GARTNER: Justice Ginsburg points that out very directly in her dissent. The change in the court's composition has led the court to undermine legal protections for women's health.

Wait a second. Is Williams right in making the flat, unqualified statement that "women's groups" agree with Ginsburg? The only group we heard from was one in the business of providing abortions. Did Williams bother to check with Concerned Women for America, or the Indepedent Women's Forum? Or don't they qualify as "women's groups" in Williams' book because they're not liberal?

WILLIAMS: Civil rights groups are sorry to see the court change, with Justice O'Connor gone, but conservatives couldn't wait for her to leave.

Nice, the way Williams pits "conservatives" against "civil rights groups." Question for Pete: why don't groups, like the Center for Individual Rights, that fight against the racial discrimination of college admission quotas, or groups that fight against restraints on free speech under the guise of "campaign finance," qualify as "civil rights groups" in your estimation?

Williams threw it back to Brown, but not before lamenting that "there's no reason to think that any of the current justices will soon retire, meaning the court will continue with just a single woman justice."

Brown then brought in Joan Biskupic, who covers the Supreme Court for USA Today.

USA TODAY CORRESPONDENT JOAN BISKUPIC: [Ginsburg] really feels that her role has changed. I've talked to her about now being the only woman on the court, and she's taking that pretty seriously. . . She was a women's right advocate in the '70s and really came up in a different way than Justice O'Connor herself. Very much in favor of women's rights and abortion rights.

She's taking being the only woman "pretty seriously"? Do we want Supreme Court justices to see themselves as representatives or advocates for their sex, race or religious group? Try substituting "Jew," "Mormon" or "white evangelical male" for "woman" and see how it sounds. Note also how Biskupic, like Williams, equates "women's rights" with liberal positions.

BROWN: Joan, when you spoke to her about that, about being the sole woman now, and the responsibility that goes along with that, what did she tell you specifically?

Campbell, there is no "responsibility" that goes along with being the sole woman. Justices take an oath to uphold the Constitution, not the perceived interests of their sex.

BISKUPIC: She was surprised at how different it felt. Removing just one single woman from the bench. Just how lonely, that was her word, lonely. And she also said, in this day and age would you ever have thought that America would be moving backward to a point where there would be only one woman among the nine-member bench . . . Justice O'Connor came up through the Republican party in Arizona, she was not active in the women's rights movement the way Justice Ginsburg was, but together they had a real solidarity.

Don't feel lonely, Justice Ginsburg. You'll always have David Souter. In any case, would Justice Ginsburg feel less lonely if Justice O'Connor had been replaced by a woman with the jurisprudential orientation of, say, Justice Clarence Thomas? Isn't this really about ideology, not sex?

Perhaps realizing that she had pushed the gender politics a bit too far, Brown did add: "We should point though I think that Justice Ginsburg's minority positions in many of these decisions isn't just because she's a woman. It isn't a male-female thing necessarily, but demonstrates the real conservative shift in this court."

So Ginsburg doesn't always vote "just" on the basis of her sex. Reassuring.

Three times Williams and Brown used the term "conservative" in referring to the court and its members, and when we briefly heard from Michael Carvin, NBC was careful to label him in the screen graphic as a "conservative lawyer." But never did the word "liberal" cross Williams' or Brown's lips in describing Ginsburg, the former chief litigator of the ACLU's "women's rights" division [see podium in screencap: looks like she's still a friend of the group], or the various liberal groups involved. They were just "women's" or "civil rights" groups.

Just another fair 'n balanced report, NBC-style.

Contact Mark at mark@gunhill.net