The AP's Sharon Theimer and her Sotomayor hatchet job

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

With each passing day the so-called journalism surrounding Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination gets more and more gruesome. Today, and it's early yet, the top honors in that category goes to the AP's Sharon Theimer with a piece that needs to be examined in order to understand just how dreadful our 'serious' press corps has become.

First up:

There are two sides to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor: a Latina from a blue-collar family and a wealthy member of America's power elite. The White House portrays Sotomayor as a living image of the American dream, though its telling of the rags-to-riches story emphasizes the rags, a more politically appealing narrative, and plays down the riches.

Message: Sotomayor and the White House are hypocrites because they talk about the nominee's "blue collar" upbringing but don't talk about how "wealthy" she is; they don't dwell on her "riches."

If you read the AP, it seems that Sotomayor is privately living in the lap of luxury but she doesn't want anyone to know about it. But is she? The AP's got the proof:

She now earns more than $200,000 a year and owns a condominium in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood of million-dollar-plus homes. Her brother, Dr. Juan Sotomayor, is a physician in North Syracuse, N.Y., whose practice doesn't accept Medicaid or Medicare - programs for the poor and elderly - according to its Web site.

Does 'guilt' by association come any more rank than this? Sotomayor lives--she owns a condo--in a neighborhood where some very rich people own expensive "homes." How much is Sotomayor's condo worth? Did it cost millions? The AP has no idea, but Sotomayor's neighbors have a lot of money, so that's all readers need to know. (Note to AP editors, in NYC pretty much every neighborhood in Manhattan has "million-dollar-plus homes.")

And what about Sotomayor's brother? Well, he's rich because he's a doctor. Plus, his practice doesn't accept Medicaid or Medicare. I'd sure to curious to hear Theimer's justification for how that has anything to do with the Supreme Court nominee. And more importantly to her editors, has the AP ever in its history of Supreme Court reporting--ever, ever, ever?--spotlighted the billing processes of a sibling in order to take a swipe at a raising star judge?

Elsewhere, the AP suggests Sotomayor's a hypocrite about her Puerto Rican heritage [emphasis added]:

On ethnicity, Sotomayor herself has recognized - and contributed to - the dichotomy. She proudly highlights her Puerto Rican roots but hasn't always liked it when others have. She once took issue with a prospective employer who singled her out as a Latina with questions she viewed as offensive yet has shown a keen ethnic consciousness herself.

Yet years ago, during a recruiting dinner in law school at Yale, Sotomayor objected when a law firm partner asked whether she would have been admitted to the school if she weren't Puerto Rican, and whether law firms did a disservice by hiring minority students the firms know are unqualified and will ultimately be fired.

Afterward, Sotomayor confronted the partner about the questions, rejected his insistence that he meant no harm and turned down his invitation for further job interviews. She filed a discrimination complaint against the firm with the university, which could have barred the firm from recruiting on campus. She won a formal apology from the firm.

According to the AP, Sotomayor got bent out shape when a firm partner merely highlighted her Puerto Rican roots. Actually, what the partner did was suggest that maybe Sotomayor got a free ride to college because she was Puerto Rican and would be in over her head if hired by the firm. How on earth does that qualify as highlighting her minority heritage? And how does that support the AP's claim that Sotomayor is proud of her Latina heritage but doesn't want others to dwell on it?

And oh yeah, Theimer also rips Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" quote completely out of context.

Like we said, just gruesome.

UPDATE: According to the Los Angeles Times' reporting, Theimer (surprise!) got Sotomayor's salary wrong. It's not "more than $200,000 a year." From the Times, which used 2008 government disclosure forms:

As an appellate judge, Sotomayor earned an annual salary of $179,500.

But the White House won't talk about how "wealthy" Sotomayor is; it won't dwell on her "riches."

UPDATE: Blogger Big Tent Democrat points out that in the past, like when the AP was reporting on Obama's proposed tax cuts, the news outlet did not refer to people making more than $200,000 as "wealthy." Instead, they were merely "workers." But when the AP (erroneously) reported that Sotomayor earned that much as a judge, suddenly she's "wealthy" and enjoying her "riches."

UPDATE: To be precise about Sotomayor's annual income, she earns $179,500 as a judge and $25,000 as a lecturer at Columbia University. So I take back what I said about Theimer getting it wrong when she wrote that Sotomayor earns "more than $200,00 a year." She does.

But here's some more context about how "wealthy" Sotomayor is. According to the same disclosure forms that the Times reported on, Sotomayor has a maximum of $65,000 savings in the bank and anywhere from between $1,000 and $15,000 in credit car debt.

Yet within the corridors of Beltway power, AP wants us to think that Sotomayor is one of the truly "wealthy" ones with all kinds of "riches."

UPDATE: For some actual context regarding wealthy judges, this is from Canada's National Post, following president Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court in 2005 [emphasis added]:

At the end of 2003, Roberts's assets were worth as little as $3 million and as much as $7 million. (Given that the stock market has soared since then, the net worth could now be in the $10 million range.) Roberts's most valuable assets were his bank accounts, which held between $1 million and $2 million. (His house in Chevy Chase, Md., is not listed on the form.)

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