Brainwashed author Ben Shapiro ignored stats in labeling U.S. Supreme Court "largely liberal"July 2, 2004 12:16 PM EDT ››› AVI ZOLLMAN
In a June 30 column, nationally syndicated right-wing columnist and 2004 UCLA grad Ben Shapiro, author of Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth (released in April by the conservative WorldNetDaily.com press WND Books), asserted that the U.S. Supreme Court is "largely liberal" and "toeing the leftist line."
In identifying the Court's "leftist" leanings, Shapiro compared the voting record on past Supreme Court decisions of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, to that of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton. According to Shapiro, through the 2003 term, the two justices came down on the same side "on 75 percent of the cases on which both had sat" -- which, Shapiro argued, meant O'Connor "leans heavily liberal."
However, when considered in context, the 75 percent correlation between O'Connor and Ginsburg decisions says little about the justices' ideology. According to statistics for the 2003 term, compiled by Thomas C. Goldstein -- founding partner at Supreme Court specialist law firm Goldstein & Howe and creator of the widely cited blog SCOTUSBlog -- Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist -- the Court's "precisely three conservatives," according to Shapiro -- decided with Ginsburg 64, 66, and 71 percent of the time, respectively (O'Connor came down on the same side as Ginsburg 77 percent of the time for the 2003 term). Even more notably, Justice Stephen Breyer, whom Shapiro identified as a liberal, agreed in judgment with Rehnquist in 74 percent of the decisions in the most recent term.
At the same time that Shapiro called out Justice O'Connor for her liberalism, she voted more frequently -- 84 percent of the time -- with Justice Scalia. The lowest correlation between any two justices' decisions from the most recent term was 60 percent.
Shapiro has a history of errors and misrepresentations. A May 11 article in the UCLA student newspaper the Daily Bruin, titled "Book misconstrues facts," cited "numerous factual errors, misquotations and misrepresentations of people's views" in Shapiro's book.
Shapiro's column, which is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate, appears on the Heritage Foundation's website Townhall.com. He is also a columnist for David Horowitz's online magazine, FrontPageMag.com.