Stephanopoulos Fawns: 'Calm,' 'Cool' Sotomayor 'Didn't Make Any Mistakes'
Published: 7/15/2009 1:10 PM ET
Former Democratic strategist-turned-journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Wednesday's Good Morning America to coo that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor "didn't make any mistakes" and "did exactly what she had to do" in her confirmation hearings on Tuesday. In contrast, during Sam Alito's confirmation hearings in 2006, Stephanopoulos related Democratic complaints about membership in a supposedly discriminatory group.
The ex-Clinton aide enthused that Sotomayor brushed aside evidence that she was difficult to deal with: "On the question of bullying, she answered that with her manner all day long. No matter how many tough questions she got, she stayed even. She stayed calm. She stayed cool." He added, "She didn't meltdown. She didn't make any mistakes."
On the January 11, 2006 edition of World News, Stephanopoulos highlighted then-Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito's membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Reciting Alito's assertion that he had no memory of joining the group and also liberal complaints, he fretted, "Democrats don't buy it. They say the group was notorious for its discriminatory agenda when Alito listed it in his 1985 job application for the Reagan Justice Department. So notorious that prominent Princeton alumni like Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist had publicly disavowed it."
In fairness, Stephanopoulos also appeared on the January 11, 2006 Good Morning America and corrected misinformation by co-host Charlie Gibson about Alito's abortion record. He claimed that Alito had done "a fairly effective job of answering the questions" of the senators. However, he wasn't as effusive to the conservative nominee as he was with Sotomayor.
On Wednesday, Stephanopoulos spun the White House as happy to be a target of Sotomayor. After playing a clip of the confirmation hearings where the nominee disagreed with a quote by Obama that a judge has to rely on his or her "heart," Stephanopoulos mused, "How's that for gratitude? She threw the President under the bus right there. But the White House doesn't care at all because they know she ended up on the safe ground where she wants where they want her to be."
In an earlier segment, ABC legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg informed viewers that "a liberal Georgetown Law professor said he was completely disgusted with [Sotomayor's] testimony." She added, "It's highly doubtful, though, we'll hear anything like that from the supportive Senate Democrats." Greenburg didn't identify law professor Mike Seidman, but he wrote at the Federalist Society's website:
Speaking only for myself (I guess that's obvious), I was completely disgusted by Judge Sotomayor's testimony today. If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified. How could someone who has been on the bench for seventeen years possibly believe that judging in hard cases involves no more than applying the law to the facts?
The ABC correspondent didn't mention the Georgetown professor when she filed a similar report on Tuesday night's World News.
A transcript of the July 15 segment, which aired at 7:15am, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And now, for the bottom line, we turn to chief Washington correspondent, and host of This Week, George Stephanopoulos. Morning to you, George.-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Robin.
ROBERTS: So, how did she do? She took a lot of tough questions on abortion, gun rights, her temperament. How do you think she did?
STEPHANOPOULOS: She did- She did exactly what she had to do, Robin. As Jan pointed out in her piece, Judge Sotomayor had to address two major sources of complaint. That she's biased and that she's a bit of a bully. And she answered those, in part, on the bias question, by a tactical retreat. She simply gave up statements she's made in the past. Saying that she didn't mean to say what people heard. And she pointed those to her record of judicial restraint. She said a record of judicial restraint. On the question of bullying, she answered that with her manner all day long. No matter how many tough questions she got, she stayed even. She stayed calm. She stayed cool. You know, Senator Graham said on Monday that unless she had a meltdown under this questioning, she would be confirmed. She didn't meltdown. She didn't make any mistakes.
ROBERTS: And one of the tough questions came from Republican Senator Jon Kyl. I want to play it for you and get your reaction.
SENATOR JOHN KYL: Let me ask you about what the President you said. Do you agree with him that the law only takes you the first 25 miles of the marathon? And that that last mile has to be decided by what's in the judge's heart?
SUPREME COURT NOMINEE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: No, sir. I don't- wouldn't approach the issues of judging in the way the President does. Judges can't rely on what's in their heart.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How's that for gratitude? She threw the President under the bus right there. But the White House doesn't care at all because they know she ended up on the safe ground where she wants where they want her to be. What's interesting, Robin, is that I actually think you're going to see the Republican senator who want to vote against Sotomayor, using the President's reasoning that he used when he voted against Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. He conceded that those justices were qualified. He conceded that they were intelligent. He just disagreed with the direction they would take the court. I think the Republican senators who vote no can use that exact same reasoning. The Obama reasoning.
ROBERTS: Well, let's look ahead to today, George. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, big speech on foreign policy today. And she went to, let's just say, a few of her friends. More than a few. What do you make of all this?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you know, there's been some criticism of Secretary Clinton. Some wondering, you know, what is her influence? You see that cast. Part of the reason she's been a little less visible recently is because of that broken elbow. But, her supporters in the State Department points out that she's traveled as much in the first six months as any secretary of state, except for Condoleezza Rice. They say there's a lot more travel and that she's been a real force behind the scenes. Despite the fact that all of these envoys in that front row of that speech today, to give the impression that a lot of the policy has been subcontracted.