During a one-on-one interview, Fox News host Jim Angle and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley falsely suggested that the controversy surrounding Bush appellate court nominee Janice Rogers Brown rests on "inflammatory statements" she has made in public speeches far more than her record as a California Supreme Court justice. Angle also falsely suggested that Brown and former presidential candidate John Kerry received comparable electoral support in San Francisco.
On the May 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Turley stated that Brown "has made some inflammatory statements, but those have tended to be in speeches." Angle asked in response, "Not in decisions?" Turley responded, "That's right," and went on to say: "It's not so bad to have people that challenge the norm in speeches. It's what she does in the court that's important, that's the measure."
But Angle and Turley failed to acknowledge that Brown has repeatedly allowed her personal views to inform her judicial decisions, according to her critics. Following her nomination to the California Supreme Court in 1996, the California State Bar Judicial Evaluations Committee deemed her "unqualified" and concluded she was "prone to inserting conservative personal views into her appellate opinions" [The Los Angeles Times, 4/26/96]. Brown's fellow California Supreme Court justices have regularly criticized Brown along similar lines, as the progressive judicial watchdog group Alliance for Justice noted in its report on Brown.
For example, in American Academy of Pediatrics v. Lungren (1997), the California court struck down a state law that required parental consent for minors seeking an abortion. In her dissent, Brown accused the majority of ignoring evidence that the legislature was motivated by the ability of health care providers to make unbiased determinations of a minor's ability to give informed consent to an abortion. The plurality criticized Brown's argument because it was based on what she called an "alternative analysis" submitted by an anti-abortion group rather than on legislative history.
Alliance for Justice also cited numerous direct parallels between the language of Brown's speeches and her opinions on the California Supreme Court.
During the segment with Turley, Angle also stated that Brown received 79 percent of the vote in San Francisco in the 1998 election for the California Supreme Court and that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) received 83 percent of the vote there in the 2004 presidential election. Angle concluded: "Now, are we to believe that this many people who voted for John Kerry also voted for someone the Democrats would characterize as a right-wing nut?"
But Angle's suggestion that Brown and Kerry share comparable electoral support in San Francisco is a misleading one. While it is correct that both candidates received large majorities in San Francisco County, Angle failed to note that Brown ran for retention in 1998 and therefore did not face an opponent. Additionally, Angle's suggestion that the same number of San Francisco residents "who voted for John Kerry also voted for [Brown]" is inaccurate. Kerry received 296,772 votes in San Francisco County in 2004, while Brown received 111,879 votes there in 1998.
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: Now, there a lot of people who say -- the Democrats say these nominees are extremist judges. And for instance, they point to Janice Rogers Brown. Now, Janice Rogers Brown won her last election to the high court in California by, like, 79 percent in San Francisco, where John Kerry won about 83 percent of the vote.
Now, are we to believe that this many people who voted for John Kerry also voted for someone the Democrats would characterize as a right-wing nut?
TURLEY: Well, I actually think people are wrong about Justice Brown. The fact is that she has made some inflammatory statements, but those have tended to be in speeches. And I also --
ANGLE: Not in decisions?
TURLEY: That's right. And when I look at her decisions, I didn't see someone who was not willing to yield to legislative intent or to a higher court. And when it comes to her statements outside of the courtroom, you know, she's bucking the trend.
We're increasingly getting these vanilla-flavored nominees who have never had a creative thought or a creative statement. It's not so bad to have people that challenge the norm in speeches. It's what she does in the court that's important, that's the measure.
During an April 12 Special Report appearance purporting to analyze Bush's judicial nominees, Turley claimed he was "a little bit mystified as to why Brown has attracted so much criticism" and said, "I don't think she's been terribly controversial."
Media Matters for America has noted the consistent absence of progressive viewpoints in the one-on-one interview segment of Special Report with Brit Hume.