Fox News Ignores Favored Judiciary Committee Congressman Now That He Supports Fixing VRA

Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

Conservative Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, was a frequent legal authority for Fox News until he announced that he was part of a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that the Supreme Court recently struck down.

In the past two months, Fox News has repeatedly turned to the legal expertise of Sensenbrenner, former Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on issues ranging from the investigation of national security leaks by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) under the Patriot Act.

Fox News host Sean Hannity, in particular, has expressed his admiration for Sensenbrenner's stature, hosting him on the June 17 edition of his show and informing the long-time congressman that "you're one of the guys that has always been on principle, which I admire and I know you have been there a while, fighting the good fight every day."

Indeed, Hannity appears to have specifically invited Sensenbrenner onto his show that day so the congressman could defend him from Media Matters' observation that the Fox News host was wildly hypocritical in his criticism of the NSA's current surveillance practices. Hannity subsequently praised Sensenbrenner's defense of the Fox News host and his legal explanation of the Patriot Act - legislation the congressman ushered through the House as Judiciary Committee chair - as "enlightening, edifying."

Sensenbrenner is also well-known for leading the effort to pass another overwhelmingly supported bipartisan bill signed into law by Bush: the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA, which the Supreme Court just infamously gutted in Shelby County v. Holder.

Because Congress accumulated extensive evidence to update and justify the VRA's selection of jurisdictions whose election changes remain subject to federal review due to their inability to stop suppressing the vote on the basis of race, Sensenbrenner has repeatedly defended Congress' reauthorization work. Sensenbrenner even filed an amicus brief for the Supreme Court in strong support of the VRA against the right-wing challenge in Shelby County, which the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court ignored.

Now, although Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), current chair of the Judiciary Committee and another Republican who voted to reauthorize the VRA in 2006, is conspicuously silent, Sensenbrenner is helping lead the bipartisan effort to once again pass the VRA provision that was struck down in Shelby County. As reported by The Hill:

A House Republican who led the last push to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act exhorted lawmakers Wednesday to join him in bringing the law back to life.

The day after the Supreme Court quashed the anti-discrimination statute, Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) urged lawmakers to cast aside their differences and restore the rejected provisions for the sake of voter protection.

"The Voting Rights Act is vital to America's commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in the electoral process," Sensenbrenner, the second-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday in a statement.

"This is going to take time, and will require members from both sides of the aisle to put partisan politics aside and ensure Americans' most sacred right is protected."

But a Media Matters search of transcripts provided by Snapstream and Nexis reveals that not only has Sensenbrenner been missing from Fox News since the Supreme Court handed down its decision on June 25, his new VRA efforts have not been discussed.

Instead, Fox News host Megyn Kelly interviewed National Review Online contributing editor Andrew McCarthy, who attacked progressives as demagogues and "race hucksters," pushing the false claim that systematic voter suppression on the basis of race "has long ago passed to the dustbin of history." Hannity chose right-wing pundit Erik Rush for his show's segment on Shelby County, a guest who proceeded to defend the opinion on the grounds that the VRA's defense against racial discrimination is useless because "we've got far, far more of a problem with dead voters and entire blocks of voters getting abducted by aliens[.]"

Sensenbrenner, on the other hand, a guest Hannity has declared he holds in such high esteem, remains absent on Fox News. In fact, the congressman has only been mentioned once on Fox News this week, in a June 28 segment of America's Newsroom that returned to the pre-Shelby discussion of national security leaks.

Meanwhile, Sensenbrenner's thoughts on Shelby County and his attempt "to put partisan politics aside and ensure Americans' most sacred right is protected" remains unreported on Fox.

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