CNS' War On Ketanji Brown Jackson
Despite claiming to be a "news" organization, CNSNews.com's coverage of Brown's Supreme Court nomination was wildly biased, heavy on Republican talking points and cherry-picked statements while censoring questioning from Democratic senators.
By Terry Krepel
Ketanji Brown Jackson
That was quickly followed, however, by a March 2 column by editor Terry Jeffrey in which he attacked Jackson for having co-authored an amicus brief 20 years ago endorsing the idea of buffer zones outside abortion clinics to protect patients from getting harassed by protesters:
For Jackson, presuming she agreed with the amicus brief that she co-authored, it was a good and constitutional thing for someone to approach a pregnant woman outside an abortion clinic for the purpose of escorting her inside to kill her unborn child.
Jeffrey didn't explain why a woman should be forced to be subjected to a message she has indicated that she doesn't want to hear.
Even more surprisingly, CNS largely left her alone for the next few weeks. But as Jackson's confirmation hearing neared, it was time for CNS to fully embrace the anti-Jackson talking points its Media Research Center parent and fellow right-wing activists were unleashing on her. Susan Jones devoted a March 21 article to Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell's complaint that Jackson wouldn't take a stand on "court-packing." Abortion-obsessed Jeffrey rehashed his 20-year-old complaint against Jackson in another article the same day:
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who co-authored an amicus brief for Mass. NARAL while working for a private law firm in 2001, and has now been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Joe Biden, offered her thanks to God at her Senate confirmation today.
Jeffrey didn't explain how the act of co-authoring a legal brief is contradictory to having faith in God, as he suggests.
CNS would eventually abandon all pretense of journalistic balance and go all in on amplifying right-wing anti-Jackson narratives. And that's what it did with its coverage of Jackson's confirmation hearing, which was largely devoted to echoing anti-Jackson narratives as expressed by Republican senators -- particularly hammering on the discredited attack on her sentencing of those convicted of child porn offenses and the gotcha question of what a woman is.
Here are the articles devoted to Republican senators asking Jackson questions and otherwise pontificating:
By contrast, CNS devoted no articles whatsoever to questions to Jackson from Democratic senators. The only time a Democratic senator's name appeared in the headline of a hearing-related article was a piece by managing editor Michael W. Chapman, "Durbin Interrupts Cruz to Stop Questioning SCOTUS Nominee Over Child Porn Cases" -- though it was clear by the transcript of the exchange in the article that Durbin was trying to get Cruz to stop talking over Jackson so she could actually answer the question he was badgering her with.
CNS also devoted a few articles to cherry-picked answers from Jackson largely framed to portray her as an evil liberal or focus on other right-wing obsessions:
CNS then sent intern Emily Robertson out to do her intern thing of pestering senators about the manufactured child-porn issue, asking them: "“Sen. Hawley yesterday listed seven child-porn cases in which he thought Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had given sentences that were too lenient. Do you agree?” She wrote four articles compiling their responses:
At no point did Robertson tell her readers that the child-porn talking point has been discredited, with even conservative National Review legal expert Andrew McCarthy denouncing it as "meritless to the point of demagoguery."
Robertson was made to do the same with the other right-wing narrative, hurling this biased question at senators: “Senator Blackburn asked Judge Jackson to define the word ‘woman’ and Judge Jackson said, ‘No, I can’t.’ Should someone who does not know what a woman is serve on the Supreme Court?” This Republican-skewed group of senators responded:
By focusing almost exclusively on Republican senators, it's clear that Robertson's mission was to advance right-wing talking points, not engage in journalism. Driving the point of her intent home even further, she even did an article on how Republican Newt Gingrich -- who hasn't been a senator for more than two decades -- huffed that Jackson "should be disqualified" from consideration on the Supreme Court "unless she can come back in and explain what a woman is and she can explain whether words like 'he' and 'she' are acceptable pronouns."
After the hearing
That wildly biased "news "coverage continued after Jackson's hearing and in the run-up to the Senate vote. Susan Jones used a March 30 article to lament that the ideologically driven Republican blockade against Jackson was broken with one senator defecting:
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the first Republican to announce support for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jones made sure to add that Brett Kavanaugh "was confirmed by a vote of 50-48 on October 6, 2018. One Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of Virginia, made his confirmation 'bipartisan' as well."
On April 4, Jones dug up a response by Jackson to a written question she didn't like: "Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, in response to written questions, has told the Senate she does not hold a position on whether individuals have natural rights that come from God, not the law." This was followed by a couple more attacks on Jackson from Republican senators, including CNS' most quotable senator, Ted Cruz:
CNS published no articles focused on what a Democratic senator had to say in favor of Jackson.
When Romney similarly confirmed that he would vote in favor of Jackson, an anonymous CNS writer took swipes at him and rehashed right-wing anti-Jackson talking points:
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who now represents Utah but formerly served as the governor of Massachusetts, was one of three Republican senators who voted today to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court.
The anonymous writer did not explain the relevance of mentioning in the lead paragraph that Romney used to be governor of Massachusetts.
A Democrat didn't make it into a headline regarding the Jackson vote until CNS could find something to complain about, and Melanie Arter found it in an April 8 article:
In a speech prior to the confirmation of Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Thursday mentioned “notable moments in America’s history” for African-Americans, pointing out the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall, as the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice but omitting the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, who currently serves on the high court.
Another anonymously written CNS article that day seemed to be complaining that too many women were being made judges, including Jackson:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday in which he provided a breakdown by race and gender of the people confirmed to the federal judiciary since Democrats gained functional control of the Senate in January 2021.
Yes, CNS seems less than thrilled about all those women in high places -- though apparently not so committed to that opinion that the writer would sign his or her name to it.
Anti-Jackson opinion only
CNSNews.com's coverage of Jackson's nomination was just as unfair and unbalanced on its opinion side as it was on the "news" side. Like the shot Jeffrey took a shot at her shortly after her nomination was announced, other opinion pieces took the same anti-Jackson tack -- not a surprise, since liberal opinions are forbidden at CNS.
In his March 23 column, Jeffrey grumbled:
Had President Joe Biden believed there was any chance Jackson would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, he would not have nominated her to the Supreme Court.
Tony Perkins used his March 24 column to falsely claim that "Jackson is getting the respect that Kavanaugh and Barrett deserved" in her Senate confirmation hearing -- then showed her disrespect by complaining that "Jackson seemed to be toeing the White House line on everything from life to transgenderism," as if Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Comey Barrett weren't toeing the Trump White House line in their hearings. He then repeated right-wing attacks on her over the definition of a woman.
Speaking of toeing political lines, a commentary the next day by Nicole Russell slavishly repeated Republican attacks on Jackson over the whole define-what-a woman-is thing:
Society has known the definitions of “woman” and “man” for millennia. This was not a trick question, but probably a primer to understanding where Jackson might rule on cases that specifically address issues of gender and sex, cases like Bostock v. Clayton County, which now bars discrimination based on gender identity, just as the law bars discrimination based on sex.
Jeffrey spent his April 6 column repeating an attack on Jackson by CNS' most quotable senator, Ted Cruz:
The Founding Fathers, as noted, said in the Declaration that "all men are created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Jeffrey then followed up his "news" side's anonymous attack on Romney for voting to confirm Jackson with an April 13 column castigating him some more, complete with irrelevantly noting that Romney was governor of Massachusetts before moving to Utah:
Today, Romney is a senator from Utah not Massachusetts.
Given that both articles have the same Massachusetts reference and similar attacks, one must wonder if Jeffrey also wrote the first hit piece on Romney, which was published anonymously. Isn't it dishonest of him to hide his authorship?