Excerpt from: CREDO Action
In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Senate Republicans shocked most Americans with their immediate commitments to refuse a hearing for any replacement nominated by President Obama — which would amount to an unprecedented act of obstructionism.
The fact is: President Obama has more than 300 days remaining in his term, but the longest any Supreme Court nominee has waited for a confirmation vote is 125 days.1 Such an act of obstructions has zero precedent in American history. But if you were to go by some reports in the traditional corporate media outlets, you’d think it was politics as usual, being waged by two equally obstinate political parties who just can’t seem to agree.
That’s an absurd and dangerous misreading of what’s happening in Washington right now, and we need to put pressure on the traditional corporate media to avoid the same old false equivalences and fake evenhandedness in covering the Supreme Court nomination story.
Tell the traditional corporate media: Report the Supreme Court nomination story for what it is — an unprecedented case of extreme Republican obstruction and anti-constitutional overreach.
Unfortunately, too many news reports have strained to make it appear as if top Democrats have taken similar stances in the past, justifying current Republican intransigence.
Many outlets have pounced on past comments from Sen. Chuck Schumer, who expressed opposition to Bush nominees in the final year of his presidency. The Wall Street Journal Editorial said Schumer “may want to forget” his comments in 2007 as he pushed back on Republican obstructionism. CNN’s Erin Burnett said Schumer’s comments in 2007 “sounds like exactly” Republican’s pledge to block any nominee.2
They weren’t. These reports failed to make clear that Schumer’s opposition was based on the merits of the nominees themselves, and he never indicated blanket opposition to nominees based on it being an election year and Bush’s final year as president, as Republicans are now doing.
Those same outlets have similarly drawn another false equivalence with President Obama’s own opposition, as a senator, to the nomination of Samuel Alito. CNN’s Matt Lewis said “there’s a lot of hypocrisy” with Democrats pushing back on obstruction.3 But again, the media completely misses the story — President Obama’s opposition to Samuel Alito’s nomination was one based on the merits of the nominee, not an outright opposition to any nominee of President Bush or an argument to wait until after President Bush left office.
Even The New York Times has gotten in on the act, drawing the same comparison to President Obama’s opposition to Alito, repeatedly reporting the story as a partisan dispute that Democrats are now simply “swapping uniforms” to be on the other side of, and depicting the unprecedented nature of Republicans’ obstruction as merely a strategic talking point being deployed by the Obama administration.4
But history speaks for itself: The same Senate Republicans — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Chuck Grassley, and Sen. Orrin Hatch — who today flatly refuse to consider any nominee on grounds that it is President Obama’s last year in office ALL voted to approve the nomination of Justice Anthony Kennedy in the final year of President Reagan’s presidency. And they did so in a Democratic-controlled Senate.
So while Republicans would love for the media to report this as a mere political disagreement that would play out similarly if the shoe were on the other foot, the truth is that what Republicans are doing now is an unprecedented, anti-democratic power grab that violates their duty to the nation and our Constitution.
It’s the responsibility of the media to report the broader context of this story, not a horse race of false equivalences and fake evenhandedness that misleads the public on what’s really happening in Washington.
Tell the traditional corporate media, CNN, CBS, ABC, FOX, and The New York Times:
- “Report the Republicans’ pledge to block a Supreme Court nomination for what it is: An unprecedented case of Republican obstructionism and anti-constitutional overreach.”
Thank you for your activism.
Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Domenico Montanaro, “7 Things To Know About Presidential Appointments To The Supreme Court,” NPR, February 14, 2016.
Julie Alderman, “Media Use False Comparisons To Undermine Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination,” Media Matters, February 16, 2016.
Eric Boehlert, “How The NY Times Is Helping Republicans Frame The Supreme Court Controversy,” Media Matters, February 17, 2016.