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Alito Labeled as "Very Conservative" and "Quite Conservative" --10/31/2005


1. Alito Labeled as "Very Conservative" and "Quite Conservative"
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is conservatives and all the television coverage Monday morning made that clear, but several reporters went further by either repeatedly applying the tag or by adding adjectives to suggest he's out of the mainstream. On ABC's Good Morning America, Jessica Yellen issued five labels in under 50 seconds, describing Alito as someone who will please Bush's "conservative base," has "established conservative credentials," is "a law and order conservative," who is "in the mold of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia" and whose "writing is so similar to the conservative justice's, he's sometimes nicknamed 'Scalito.'" Just before Bush's announcement, Charles Gibson called Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of the otherwise "liberal appellate court." Gibson soon repeated himself: "The President has picked somebody very conservative." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied a few minutes earlier on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello before Jeffrey Toobin applied the "very conservative" tag. NBC's Katie Couric asserted that Alito "could be a controversial choice" because he's "a favorite on the right and he would replace moderate justice Sandra Day O'Connor."

2. CBS and CNN Zero in on Alito's Spousal Notice Abortion Ruling
CBS and CNN coverage Monday morning displayed particular concern with Judge Samuel Alito's agreement with a Pennsylvania law which required wives to inform their husbands before getting an abortion. "The controversy here," CBS's Gloria Borger declared on The Early Show, "will be on abortion" since "he argued in an opinion once that women seeking abortions should be told that they need to inform their husbands about it. On CNN's Daybreak, Carol Costello seemed disturbed by the decision, pressing Jeffrey Toobin: "Why, legally, would you uphold something like that? That a woman would have to check with her husband first in order to get an abortion?" Costello next saw ominous signs in his ruling: "Well, I guess, I guess what I'm, I'm trying to get at is, is, is this is a very conservative judge, and he's going to be against legalized abortion. I mean, you could draw that conclusion from this, couldn't you? Or could I?"

3. Schieffer: Bush Caught Between "Democrats" and "Hard Right"
In picking a Supreme Court nominee, CBS's Bob Schieffer fretted on Sunday's Face the Nation, President Bush is caught between "Democrats" and "the hard right."

4. Brokaw: "What Did Cheney Know and When Did He...?"; Scolds Media
"The real lingering question for me is," former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw asserted on the 5pm EDT Friday edition of MSNBC's Hardball, "was this a one-man band, or were there others in the administration who were linked to his efforts?" Brokaw added, as if it were the natural thing to wonder about: "And, of course, the question that will be raised by a lot of people not in any way fans of this administration, 'what did Dick Cheney know and when did he know it?'" Brokaw, however, also criticized the news media for "all the speculation leading up to this" when "we ended up with one indictment today." Looking forward, Brokaw predicted that "I don't think that he [Fitzgerald] has an indictment in mind for Karl Rove," which, Brokaw noted, "is going to be an acute disappointment to a lot of people who are not fans of this administration."


Alito Labeled as "Very Conservative"
and "Quite Conservative"

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito is conservatives and all the television coverage Monday morning made that clear, but several reporters went further by either repeatedly applying the tag or by adding adjectives to suggest he's out of the mainstream. On ABC's Good Morning America, Jessica Yellen issued five labels in under 50 seconds, describing Alito as someone who will please Bush's "conservative base," has "established conservative credentials," is "a law and order conservative," who is "in the mold of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia" and whose "writing is so similar to the conservative justice's, he's sometimes nicknamed 'Scalito.'" Just before Bush's announcement, Charles Gibson called Alito "very conservative" and "the most conservative member" of the otherwise "liberal appellate court." Gibson soon repeated himself: "The President has picked somebody very conservative." Over on CBS's Early Show, Gloria Borger dubbed Alito "quite conservative," the same label applied a few minutes earlier on CNN's Daybreak by Carol Costello before Jeffrey Toobin applied the "very conservative" tag. NBC's Katie Couric asserted that Alito "could be a controversial choice" because he's "a favorite on the right and he would replace moderate justice Sandra Day O'Connor."

Below are fuller quotations, taken from this morning's coverage, as collected by MRC analysts Geoffrey Dickens, Ken Shepherd, Megan McCormack and Michael Rule, with repetitive or extremist ideological labels in ALL CAPS:

# Jessica Yellen, from the White House, at the top of 7am EST half hour of Good Morning America, applied five labels in under 50 seconds: "Good morning. President Bush will please his CONSERVATIVE base with this pick. Samuel Alito is certain to be opposed by many Democrats, but no one will accuse him of being unqualified. Samuel Alito is a federal judge in New Jersey with established CONSERVATIVE credentials. He has well known views on constitutional issues and unquestioned intellectual heft. Alito is considered a law and order CONSERVATIVE, and many Democrats believe he would oppose abortion rights because he supported a law that required women to notify their husbands before having an abortion. In choosing Alito, the President has made good on a campaign promise to pick Supreme Court nominees in the mold of CONSERVATIVE Justice Antonin Scalia. Alito once clerked for Justice Scalia, and his writing is so similar to the CONSERVATIVE justice's, he's sometimes nicknamed 'Scalito.'"

A but later, after a Capitol Hill report from Linda Douglass, Gibson asked George Stephanopoulos to confirm a liberal talking point: "George, Linda Douglass said just a moment ago that the Democrats. liberal Democrats on the hill are already saying well he gave into pressure from the right of his party, to pick Judge Alito. Fair charge?"
Stephanopoulos agreed: "Sure. Absolutely. Conservatives did not back Harriet Miers, they brought her down, that's the Democrats talking point. There's no question the number one goal here for the White House coming out of the Harriet Miers failed nomination, of course all the troubles of the CIA leak investigation, is to unify their base behind this pick, to keep that promise that the President said to pick someone like Antonin Scalia, I think conservatives will be very happy and the President will have given them what they wanted."

At 8am EST, a minute before President Bush's announcement, Gibson delivered this biography of Alito: "He is VERY CONSERVATIVE, this is a liberal appellate court, but he is the MOST CONSERVATIVE member on it, but we've just been looking in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary and other judges say about him -- 'a brilliant jurist,' 'outstanding is to use understatement,' 'the best judge on the circuit; detailed, analytical, and thorough.' The President has picked somebody VERY CONSERVATIVE, but a very accomplished jurist as well. Obviously his opinions on things like abortion are going to be closely scrutinized now, but this obviously is the appointment the President making because Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination last week. Here's the President and Judge Alito."


# Today, top of 7am EST half hour. Matt Lauer: "NBC News has confirmed the President will nominate Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court just about an hour from now. Alito serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia and he is so CONSISTENTLY CONSERVATIVE he's been called Scalito in comparison to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

At 8am EST. Lauer: "And good morning and welcome to this NBC News Special Report. I'm Matt Lauer along with Katie Couric. In just a minute or so President Bush will nominate conservative appeals court judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court."
Couric: "It could be a controversial choice. Alito is a favorite on the right and he would replace moderate justice Sandra Day O'Connor who was often a swing vote on the high court. This comes just four days after news broke that Harriet Miers was, in fact, dropping out of the running for the Supreme Court."


# CNN's Daybreak, at 6:51am EST. Anchor Carol Costello: "At 8am Eastern, President Bush will name his Supreme Court nominee. And we now know who that is, a federal judge from Philadelphia. His name is Samuel Alito. He's been on the bench for 15 years. He's 55 years old. He was a former U.S. attorney, lots of experience. He's also QUITE CONSERVATIVE. So it seems as if President Bush has made this pick to please his conservative base, which means there will be quite a fight."

Jeffrey Toobin, just past 7am EST, on American Morning: "He was the United States attorney, the chief prosecutor in New Jersey, under the first Bush administration, nominated by the first President Bush to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. He has served there for 15 years. So, so he is certainly an experienced judge. The qualifications issue, I don't think will cut against him at all. The big issue will be judicial philosophy. He's VERY CONSERVATIVE, and the issue that he is most publicly identified with is abortion...."

CBS and CNN Zero in on Alito's Spousal
Notice Abortion Ruling

CBS and CNN coverage Monday morning displayed particular concern with Judge Samuel Alito's agreement with a Pennsylvania law which required wives to inform their husbands before getting an abortion. "The controversy here," CBS's Gloria Borger declared on The Early Show, "will be on abortion" since "he argued in an opinion once that women seeking abortions should be told that they need to inform their husbands about it. On CNN's Daybreak, Carol Costello seemed disturbed by the decision, pressing Jeffrey Toobin: "Why, legally, would you uphold something like that? That a woman would have to check with her husband first in order to get an abortion?" Costello next saw ominous signs in his ruling: "Well, I guess, I guess what I'm, I'm trying to get at is, is, is this is a very conservative judge, and he's going to be against legalized abortion. I mean, you could draw that conclusion from this, couldn't you? Or could I?"

# Gloria Borger, live from Washington, DC, in the 7am EST half hour of CBS's Early Show: "Well, if conservatives were objecting to Harriet Miers, they will be dancing in the streets over Judge Samuel Alito. He has been their favorite for Supreme Court justice all along. This is someone who is known as Scalito, Julie, because he's he is what you would call an originalist, someone who believes in interpreting the Constitution very narrowly. He was nominated for the bench first by the President's father in 1990. He also served in the office of solicitor general under President Reagan, he was a US attorney in New Jersey, and he's a very strong conservative. The controversy here, Julie, will be on abortion. He does favor some sort of limits on abortion. He argued in an opinion once that women seeking abortions should be told that they need to inform their husbands about it. That was a position that was eventually shot down by the Supreme Court. Julie?"


# On CNN's Daybreak at 6:30am EST, Carol Costello quizzed CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin by phone:

Costello: "I want to go into more about this Planned Parenthood versus Casey. We have our legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, on the phone. Jeff, hello."
Jeffrey Toobin: "Carol."
Costello: "Ok. So tell me about this case."
Toobin: "...He tried, he believed that the parental, the notification by husband, which was part of the Pennsylvania law, was permissible. He thought it was okay that Pennsylvania insisted that a woman get her husband's permission before she got an abortion. That part of the ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court. So, the, the court disagreed with him about that. Now, that, that doesn't mean he's a bad judge. It doesn't mean, you know, that good judges don't get their opinions overruled by the Supreme Court now and then. But, you know, not only did he rule in a way that, you know, pro-life forces will like, pro, pro-choice forces will dislike, but it was overruled by the Supreme Court in this very important decision in 1992."
Costello: "Why, legally, would you uphold something like that? That a woman would have to check with her husband first in order to get an abortion."
Toobin: "Well, the way abortion law works is that the courts have established various kinds of balancing tests. It's, you know, the interests of the woman versus the interest of the fetus, versus the interest of the family, versus the interest, all these factors come into play. Judge Alito ruled that, that Pennsylvania's interest in family life, in, you know, preserving the institution of marriage, was enough of a consideration to merit this restriction on a woman's right to choose abortion on her own. The Supreme Court disagreed. That, but that's generally the reasoning. That Pennsylvania had a-"
Costello: "Well, I guess, I guess what I'm, I'm trying to get at is, is, is this is a very conservative judge, and he's going to be against legalized abortion. I mean, you could draw that conclusion from this, couldn't you? Or could I?"
Toobin: "I, I think it's a very good indication that this is a judge who will want to overturn Roe v. Wade. I mean, I think that is a very fair logical inference from his record on the bench; that this is a judge who believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned. I mean, that undoubtedly, that question will be the center of his confirmation hearings, as it has been for every judge appointed to the Supreme Court since the '70s. But this, this judge, we have a lot more data on his feelings about legalized abortion than we do on many of the others."
Costello: "So, when he's asked question, if it gets that far, when, when, you know, the senators are posing him questions, will he have to answer specific questions, unlike John Roberts did?"
Toobin: "...I think you're right that he will have a harder time than Roberts did in completely avoiding the issue of Roe v. Wade because of his own record and because of Sandra Day O'Connor's crucial role on that question. After all, Judge, Judge Roberts was replacing the chief justice, who already was a vote against abortion. Judge Alito will be a candidate to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the swing vote. Just, by the way, I mean, his nickname on the bench, and I expect you'll be hearing this a lot, is Scalito. In other words, it's sort of the little Scalia. Now, no one is suggesting that a, that a nickname is grounds for voting for or against someone. But I think that gives you some clue about his judicial philosophy, that he's known as Scalito."

In the 7am EST half hour, on American Morning, just after Toobin asserted, as recounted in item #1 above, that Alito is "very conservative, and the issue that he is most publicly identified with is abortion," he elaborated:
"He wrote a very controversial opinion in 1991, in which he upheld a requirement in Pennsylvania law that a woman had to inform her husband if she wanted to get an abortion. That, that was struck down by the Supreme Court. You're going to hear a lot about that decision. That, I expect, will be the centerpiece of the confirmation fight, and abortion has been at the center of every confirmation fight since the '70s."

Schieffer: Bush Caught Between "Democrats"
and "Hard Right"

In picking a Supreme Court nominee, CBS's Bob Schieffer fretted on Sunday's Face the Nation, President Bush is caught between "Democrats" and "the hard right."

The October 30 Face the Nation opened with Schieffer interviewing Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer. Then Schieffer moderated a mini-panel segment with Jan Crawford Greenburg of the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post's Dan Balz to whom he ruminated:
"You know, I must say, listening to the two Senators here, I sometimes wonder if he can get anyone confirmed right now for the Supreme Court because the Democrats are going to be against anybody if they're not pro-choice and the Republicans, the hard right, is going to be against anybody who is pro-choice."

Brokaw: "What Did Cheney Know and When
Did He...?"; Scolds Media

"The real lingering question for me is," former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw asserted on the 5pm EDT Friday edition of MSNBC's Hardball, "was this a one-man band, or were there others in the administration who were linked to his efforts?" Brokaw added, as if it were the natural thing to wonder about: "And, of course, the question that will be raised by a lot of people not in any way fans of this administration, 'what did Dick Cheney know and when did he know it?'" Brokaw, however, also criticized the news media for "all the speculation leading up to this" when "we ended up with one indictment today." Looking forward, Brokaw predicted that "I don't think that he [Fitzgerald] has an indictment in mind for Karl Rove," which, Brokaw noted, "is going to be an acute disappointment to a lot of people who are not fans of this administration."

(This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

From about 15 minutes into the 5pm EDT edition of the October 28 Hardball with Chris Matthews in DC and Brokaw in Manhattan, on to promote his Friday night special, Tom Brokaw Reports: In God They Trust, two short transcripts I cobbled together quickly from the closed-captioning and then compared to the video of what aired:

# Brokaw: "The real lingering question for me is, was this a one-man band, or were there others in the administration who were linked to his efforts to do that. And, of course, the question that will be raised by a lot of people not in anyway fans of this administration, what did Dick Cheney know and when did he know it. You know, they're joined almost cheek by jowl, they ride to work every morning, they've been very close philosophically and personally for a long time."


# Matthews: "The stories that will be written around the world, they'll be on Nightly tonight, they're going to be in the big papers tomorrow. Will the White House be able to couch this as a bad day, but basically they won the argument, they were not proven guilty of leaking this name?
Brokaw: "Yeah, I think that there's, there is some conditioning going on here. We were, you know, all the speculation leading up to this, that I said earlier in the day, that reminded me of sports writers sitting around before the Super Bowl knowing with certainty about what was going to happen and then the kickoff occurs and the game plan changes all together. We ended up with one indictment today. There was a lot of talk about how many people this could spread to during the course of the investigation and that the leaker probably would be named in some fashion. I agree with Michael [Isikoff], watching Mr. Fitzgerald, both listening to his verbal descriptions of where he is in the investigation and watching his body language. I don't think that he has an indictment in mind for Karl Rove. There are some lingering questions that he wants to get resolved. So, the administration probably is taking some solace tonight in what you just said, that they were not the source of the leak and that it didn't extend all the way to Karl Rove, which I know is going to be an acute disappointment to a lot of people who are not fans of this administration politically or otherwise."

-- Brent Baker