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The MRC War on Ketanji Brown Jackson, Part 3: The Gotcha Question

The Media Research Center dutifully amplified a malicious Republican question demanding that the Supreme Court nominee define what a woman is -- but censored the fact that most Americans hated Republicans' hostile treatment of Jackson.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/20/2022

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

When Republicans hurled the gotcha question to Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing about defining what a woman is, the Media Research Center knew what to do -- exploit it for maximum partisan impact. Kevin Tober set the tone:

On Tuesday night, during her confirmation hearings, Biden Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson was asked by Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) if she could define the word woman. Proving how woke she is, Jackson said she couldn’t define the word because she isn’t a biologist. As shocking as this answer was, only NBC Nightly News managed to air the exchange. With ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News ignoring the whole controversy.


ABC & CBS were obviously too embarrassed to inform their viewers that Biden’s Supreme Court nominee either didn’t know or refused to answer what a woman is.

Alex Christy got mad at Jimmy Kimmel for pointing out the partisan gotcha nature of the question:

ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel had a hard time on Wednesday comprehending why Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn and Ted Cruz would quiz Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on the definition of a "woman." Kimmel resorted to personal attacks to defend Jackson, but only ended up making himself the butt of the joke as he also couldn’t come up with a definition.

Kimmel began by lamenting: “[Jackson] said the fact that she was even nominated shows how far we’ve come as a country, and so some of the Republican senators on the committee have been hard at work to show how far we haven’t.”

Eventually, Kimmel would try to make it seem as if Blackburn was the one who was clueless on what constitutes a woman: “The award for most original question of the week so far goes to Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who is the only Republican woman on the Judiciary Committee. And yet is still trying to figure out what that word means.”

After playing the video of Blackburn and Jackson going back and forth on the issue, with Jackson pleading ignorance because she’s not a biologist, Kimmel attempted to answer the question: “Hold on. I know the answer. 'You are a horrible woman.' Is that--?”

No, Jimmy, it isn’t.

Christy also got mad that Kimmel used "name calling" toward Republican Sen. Ted Cruz -- as if hurling insults at people it doesn't like (i.e. cheering Joe Rogan calling Brian Stelter a "motherfucker") wasn't the MRC's modus operandi.

Tober lashed out at MSNBC's Joy Reid yet again for criticizing that gotcha question: "It's obvious why Reid was furious, Jackson was exposed as woke since refused to define something so simple." He further complained that "Reid said that the GOP Senators were 'constantly saying child pornography because they know that triggers QAnon and they want them to vote Republican.' Which of course is false." Tober offered no evidence to disprove that statement. Christy was similarly upset that CNN linked Republicans' obsession with smearing Jackson with discredited child porn questions as originating with QAnon, but he too failed to disprove the claim.

The MRC once again got mad that the hostile Republican questioning of Jackson was being called out as such, and that there was coverage of Jackson that wasn't as hostile as that coming from the MRC and other right-wing media while invoking the nomination ghost of Brett Kavanaugh:

Christy -- who has apparently decided that Kimmel is his mortal enemy --melted down over him again for continuing to make Republicans look bad:

On his Thursday, ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel summarized Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings with a parody of Hollywood award shows. For his final award, he bestowed on Jackson the “award for Outstanding Poker Face While Listening to Idiots.”


Kimmel specifically couldn’t hide his contempt for Ted Cruz, who received the “Outstanding Sitting Stone-faced While Your Colleague Calls You a Jackass” and “Outstanding Supporting Actress” awards. Of course, Kimmel wasn’t intelligent enough to see that the latter award confirmed Cruz’s concern about the definition of “woman.”

Other awards included the “Outstanding Skeptical Chin Rub” and “Outstanding Putting on and Immediately Removing Glasses” which went to Louisiana Senator John Kennedy and the “Outstanding Indignant Hand Chop” which was given to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

Christy huffed in a separate post:

Columnists Jonathan Capehart and David Brooks joined PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff on Friday for their weekly panel discussion to recap Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Together, the duo would accuse Republicans of putting her through hell so that they could get on Fox.

Christy conveniently failed to mention that all four Senate Republicans who hectored Jackson about child porn sentencing were all rewarded with airtime on Fox News shortly afterward -- meaning that Capehart and Brooks were correct in their assessment.

Jeffrey Lord defended Cruz hammering Jackson on the child porn narrative and denied he had any racist motive in doing so:

Cruz’s “message” had zero to do with Brown Jackson being, as the Times described her “A Black woman.” Cruz’s point had everything to do with left-wing jurisprudence. The latter a longtime issue between left and right that has zero to do with race and has been raised in one Court nomination after another involving white nominees and the issue of crime.

It's weird that Lord is so upset that the Times described a Black woman as "a Black woman."

Tober was upset again that the QAnon link was brought up once more:

ABC continued to prove that for the leftist media any criticism of them has some ulterior motive, during the “Powerhouse Roundtable” segment on Sunday’s This Week, co-host Jon Karl claimed that the GOP questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on her light sentences to child porn offenders was “a message to QAnon.”


Karl replied whining about the GOP Senator’s “focus on child pornography and pedophiles.” To which Brazile shot back “QAnon.”

Unsurprisingly, Karl agreed “it was a message to QAnon, wasn't it?” Arguing that “these are not major cases, these were sentencing decisions.”

And again, Tober offered no evidence to counter the claim.

Post-hearing spin

With the actual confirmation hearing over for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, it was time for the Media Research Center to try and get a handle on the post-hearing narrative, starting with blanket denials that Republicans' aggressive and deceitful questioning of Jackson. First up, whining that said questioning was considered to have at least a tinge of racism:

Then it was Tim Graham whine time. First, he insisted that what Jackson faced was nowhere near as bad as what happened to the sainted Brett Kavanaugh:

Was this epic shamelessness or remarkable amnesia? (Pick A.)

Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus penned a piece in the Sunday paper headlined "Confirmation hearings? More like defamation hearings." Online, the headline was "Forget advise and consent. This is smear and degrade." It's like nothing ever happened to Brett Kavanaugh.


In this case, the words "Brett Kavanaugh" never appeared, as if Marcus didn't have to address the Fake News about teenaged gang rape. In 2018, Marcus took after Kavanaugh for daring to get angry when he was accused of teenage rape. The headline then was "Ford’s testimony was devastating. Kavanaugh’s was volcanic." No "smear and degrade" or tarnish.

Oh no, "the fundamental wisdom of the Constitution’s approach was on display Thursday. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh was confronted with the witness against him — one of them, anyway — and it was devastating." What a Democrat rag this paper is!

Graham offered no evidence that the sexual assault claims made against Kavanaugh were "fake news."

Then, Graham dedicated his March 30 column to issuing his usual complaint about fact-checkers fact-checking Republicans too much for his taste:

Now that the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings are complete, we have collected another fascinating exhibit of the leftist tilt of “independent fact checkers.” Just try and find a single fact check on anything Judge Jackson said. Try and find a single evaluation of any statement by a Democratic politician touting Jackson – from Biden and Dick Durbin on down.

Checking liberals and Democrats is apparently not listed among their job duties.

On March 28, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates addressed Judge Jackson’s qualifications. Bates claimed what speaks to the strength of her public record “is the multitude of fact-checks from the press, from retired judges, and from former prosecutors who have dismantled attacks brought by a small group of GOP senators.”

“Dismantling” Republican critiques is the job of the Fact Check community? That’s what it looks like.

Graham went on to disingenuously rant:

Add to that one bizarre attack on a Trump fan on Facebook with 2,700 friends. He was ruled “False” when he claimed the Kavanaugh hearings drew more live coverage than the Jackson hearings. That is “True,” and PolitiFact is “False.” Once they started throwing around shoddy rape claims, The Price Is Right and The View had to take a hike.
Graham conveniently didn't link to the PolitiFact fact-check in question so his readers could see it for themselves. As it turns out, Graham is misleading about the fact-check; it actually said: "The coverage is comparable to how news networks reported on the initial days of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. After four days of hearings, sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh emerged and another hearing was scheduled on Sept. 27 to address them. News networks canceled their regular programming to air that hearing live."

To repeat: The assault allegations against Kavanaugh weren't made until after the same round of hearings, and those were covered comparably to Jackson's hearing. The allegations were covered in an additional hearing, and that's the one that got widespread coverage. Graham's declaration of "false" is, well, false.

The MRC's parade of whining that Republicans are being criticized continued:

In that last one, Clay Waters made a lame attempt to throw shade at Democrats by suggesting Republicans treated better than Democrats treated Amy Coney Barrett: "At least Republicans stayed to vote against Jackson. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee simply boycotted the vote for Trump nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett in 2020." Waters conveniently omitted the context -- which was actually noted in the NPR article he linked to as backup -- that Democrats boycotted the vote to highlight how Barrett's nomination was being hypocritically rammed through by Republicans during a presidential election despite Republicans blocking Merrick Garland's nomination in 2016 by claiming that it was too close to a presidential election.

Senate vote, more whining

Even though a Quinnipiac poll found that only 27 percent of Americans approved of how Republicans treated Jackson, the MRC was still complaining that the unpopular GOP harshness was being called out.

Tober complained that MSNBC guest "Elie Mystal doubled down on his claims that the criticism Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson received from Republicans was designed to get her killed. He even suggested Republicans oppose her nomination because she's black." He concluded by hypocritically huffing, "This kind of talk isn't just deranged, it is dangerous and should be called out by all sane people who value civil political discourse."

Clay Waters actually suggested that people should stop complaining about what Republicans did to Jackson because she'll be approved anyway -- even as he nursed grievances about the treatment of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas more than 30 years ago:

After his repulsive front-page piece March 25 excoriating Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee for their supposedly racist treatment of Biden’s Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, New York Times reporter Carl Hulse announced some Republicans would vote yes in the upcoming confirmation vote on Tuesday’s front page: “Cracks Appear in G.O.P.’s Opposition to Jackson.”

Even as Jackson stands on the precipice of victory, Hulse is still bitterly attacking committee Republicans for daring to question her record.


Hulse hypocritically longed for the good old days when Congress reliably rubber-stamped a president’s Supreme Court nominees. (Does he not remember the treatment of the Republican-nominated Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh?)

Alex Christy tried to soft-pedal things by claiming that Jackson merely faced "tough" and "sharp" questions from Republicans while getting upset that they were (accurately) described as right-wing culture war issues: "Apparently previous Supreme Court nominees have never had to deal with culture war questions. Only when Republicans do not get out of the way of “history” are such questions considered going too far."

Later, when NBC's Chuck Todd pointed out that the GOP attacks were driven by the “echo chamber conservative media,” Christy uniroinically retorted, "Irony is dead at MSNBC." Of course, that's exactly what someone stuck in the right-wing media echo chamber would say.

Then, on the day of the Senate's vote on Jackson, there came the MRC whining about something historical being accurately reported as such and the non-right-wing media's refusal to hate Jackson like the MRC clearly does:

Tober lost it when CNN pointed out that some Republican senators couldn't be bothered to dress like a senator to cast their vote:

Even after Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed the leftist media cannot stop whining that she was treated unfairly by Republican Senators. They are even playing the race card in their attacks on the GOP, with CNN’s Lauran Coates suggesting that some Senators not wearing neckties to the vote was disrespectful to the first African American woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court.


Coates didn’t mention which Senator or Senators committed the unforgivable sin of not wearing a tie. Regardless, this is a petty complaint even for CNN.

Tim Graham, meanwhile, was still stuck on his Kavanaugh grievance kick in his April 8 column:

The shamelessness of liberal politicians and journalists is displayed by their unique outrage at the treatment of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, as if everyone forgot the smearing of Brett Kavanaugh with unsubstantiated sexual allegations, including teenaged gang rape.

Graham used his podcast the same day to whine that non-right-wing media "complained that Republicans were somehow rude to walk out of the Senate chamber once the vote was over, like everyone was supposed to surround Judge Jackson like she was the hero at the end of Top Gun."

Brad Wilmouth continued the MRC's anger at Republicans being criticized by complaining that "CNN analyst Errol Louis suggested that Republicans are opposed to and bitter about the acquisition of civil rights for African Americans as he reacted to Republican resistance to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's appointment to the Supreme Court," then "suggested that Judge Jackson's Republican critics represent a backlash to the Civil Rights Movement and oppose "progress" like the appointment of Judge Jackson." Wilmouth did not rebut any of Louis' claims.

Which kind of sums up the MRC's entire strategy against Jackson -- make a lot of noise, keep the narratives in play, and deny they have been discredited. That's not "media research," that's a partisan political organization.

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