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Kagan's Confirmation Makes ABC and NBC as Giddy as Liberal Democrats

"The number that really excited Democrats is three: Think Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan," NBC's Kelly O'Donnell excitedly announced Thursday night while leading into a clip of Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who exclaimed as he bounced on his heels on the Senate floor: "Three women will serve together on the United States Supreme Court for the first time in our nation's history!"

The news equally excited the TV network journalists. "History was made in this country today when the Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court," declared fill-in NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt as viewers were treated to a "Making History" on-screen graphic.

"Tonight on World News, a day of high court history. Elena Kagan confirmed. For the first time ever, three women will be part of deciding the law of the land," spouted a giddy Diane Sawyer in matching NBC by making Kagan her lead story. Sawyer could hardly contain her excitement:

We are here in Washington on the day a new voice joins the Supreme Court. Elena Kagan, the third woman currently on the court, a woman with a reputation for holding her own in any room. And our Jonathan Karl is right here to tell us about the big vote right over there on Capitol Hill. And I want to know what happens when a new justice dons the robe for the first time, Jon?

Karl confirmed: "Well, it's a big day here. I mean, in all of American history, the Senate has confirmed only 112 justices, and, even if you include retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, only four of them have been women."

One sour note for Karl, a certain Republican who voted no: "There was one surprise. Scott Brown, I mean, this is the liberal, or moderate Republican from Massachusetts, introduced her at the confirmation hearings, defended her leadership of Harvard Law School. But in the end, he voted no."

(Back on January 31, 2006, when the Senate confirmed President George W. Bush's second Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, ABC's World News held itself to a short item read by anchor Elizabeth Vargas.)

On NBC Thursday night, Holt fretted that "today's confirmation vote fell largely along party lines, seen by many as another symbol of Washington's ever-deepening partisan divide." But that "ever-deepening" is actually slightly less so than with Alito. Five Republicans voted to confirm Kagan, one more than the four Democrats who backed Alito. On the January 31, 2006 NBC Nightly News, Pete Williams noted: "The vote, 58-to-42, was one of the most deeply partisan ever for a Supreme Court nominee, with just four Democrats voting to confirm."

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide these transcripts of the Thursday, August 6 stories:

ABC's World News:

DIANE SAWYER, IN OPENING TEASER: Tonight on World News, a day of high court history. Elena Kagan confirmed. For the first time ever, three women will be part of deciding the law of the land.

...

SAWYER: We are here in Washington on the day a new voice joins the Supreme Court. Elena Kagan, the third woman currently on the court, a woman with a reputation for holding her own in any room. And our Jonathan Karl is right here to tell us about the big vote right over there on Capitol Hill. And I want to know what happens when a new justice dons the robe for the first time, Jon?

JONATHAN KARL: Well, it's a big day here. I mean, in all of American history, the Senate has confirmed only 112 justices, and, even if you include retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, only four of them have been women.

SENATOR AL FRANKEN (D-MN): The tally is 63-37.

KARL: Elena Kagan was easily confirmed in a vote the President hailed as historic.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For nearly two centuries, there wasn't a single woman on our nation's highest court.

KARL: Kagan faced last-minute attacks from Republicans who branded her a liberal activist with absolutely no judicial experience.

SENATOR PAT ROBERTS (R-KS): Her lack of judicial experience, striking.

MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: -is not suited-

SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): -does not have the gifts-

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): She is unlikely to exercise judicial restraint.

KARL: It was highly partisan. All but five Republicans voted no. All but one Democrat voted yes. With Kagan, the court will now have, for the first time, three women serving at once, one third of the justices. It's a huge sea change for an institution that has been dominated by men. As recently as last year, there was just one woman on the court.

JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Now there I am all alone, and it doesn't look right. It's lonely for me. There's life experience that a woman has simply because she's grown up inside a woman's body.

KARL: Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman in 1981, but it wasn't until 12 years later that the court installed a woman's restroom near the room where they deliberate.

JOAN BISKUPIC, SUPREME COURT HISTORIAN: For years, they would just have a men's bathroom back there. It just goes to show what a male-dominated place the Supreme Court had been for many years.

KARL: Kagan will, of course, be the most junior justice, and the others will make sure she knows it. By tradition, the junior justice must take notes when the nine of them deliberate. And, Diane, if somebody knocks on the door, it is her, the most junior justice, that has to go up to answer the door to bring in papers, a message, or even coffee.

SAWYER: Pretty mild form of hazing, though. Tell me about the vote itself. Any surprises who voted for and against?

KARL: There was one surprise. Scott Brown, I mean, this is the liberal, or moderate Republican from Massachusetts, introduced her at the confirmation hearings, defended her leadership of Harvard Law School. But in the end, he voted no.

SAWYER: So he voted with the Republicans?

KARL: He voted with the rest of the Republicans, all but five of them, against her nomination.

SAWYER: Okay, thanks, Jon. Good to be here with you tonight.

NBC Nightly News:

LESTER HOLT: Good evening. Brian is on assignment tonight. I'm Lester Holt. History was made in this country today when the Senate confirmed Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. Once she's sworn in this weekend, she'll become the current court's third woman member and the fourth ever named. Tonight President Obama calls Kagan's confirmation "an affirmation of her character and her temperament." Still, today's confirmation vote fell largely along party lines, seen by many as another symbol of Washington's ever-deepening partisan divide. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is on Capitol Hill with more. Kelly, good evening.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good evening, Lester. When you look at today's vote, you can see history. Justice Kagan will give women a greater voice - making up one-third of the court - and you can see politics. Five Republicans crossed over to support Kagan while one Democrat was among the no votes.

SENATOR AL FRANKEN (D-MN): The tally is 63-37. The nomination is confirmed.

O'DONNELL: Elena Kagan did get five fewer votes than Sonia Sotomayor last summer, but the number that really excited Democrats is three: Think Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Three women will serve together on the United States Supreme Court for the first time in our nation's history!

O'DONNELL: At 50, Kagan becomes the youngest justice, succeeding the oldest, 90-year-old John Paul Stevens. Congratulations from President Obama late today.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She knows that the Supreme Court's decisions shape not just the character of our democracy, but the circumstances of our daily lives.

O'DONNELL: Kagan's unexpected sense of humor charmed Senators of both parties at her confirmation hearings.

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: It means I'd have to get my hair done more often, Senator Specter.

O'DONNELL: New York born, first woman dean of Harvard Law. Her policy to limit military recruiters access there gave Republicans their strongest criticism.

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Dean Kagan, I believe, showed a willingness to bend the law and facts to advance her own political goals of protesting the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

O'DONNELL: Kagan worked for Presidents Obama and Clinton. She will be the only justice on the current court who has never been a judge.

LEAHY: She earned her place at the top of the legal profession. No one gave it to her. She earned it.

O'DONNELL: And it's been 40 years since the newest member of the Supreme Court has had no previous experience as a judge. And the plan for Elena Kagan is that she will be sworn in this Saturday afternoon by her new colleague, Chief Justice John Roberts.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.