NY Times , others misrepresented Lieberman's comments on Roberts

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

The New York Times misrepresented a comment made by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) to falsely report that Lieberman had said he would likely support John G. Roberts Jr.'s nomination to the Supreme Court. In a July 20 article, Times reporter Adam Nagourney referred to a Lieberman quote that appeared in a July 14 Hartford Courant article. Nagourney wrote: "Even before the nomination, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, a moderate Democrat and one of the 14 senators whose recent compromise averted a shutdown on the process of confirming judicial nominees, said he was likely to support Mr. Roberts if he was nominated."

But in fact, the Courant reported that Lieberman had said that Roberts was "in the ballpark" of potential Supreme Court justices who could be considered without sparking a filibuster. Far from offering an endorsement, Lieberman insisted that Roberts "would be carefully scrutinized":

Lieberman offered reporters Wednesday three names he said could be considered without sparking a talk-athon. He would not say whether he brought them up to Rove.

He said federal appellate Judges Michael McConnell and John G. Roberts were "in the ballpark," and that "people tell me" appeals court Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson is "very similar."

Lieberman emphasized that should they be nominated, they would be carefully scrutinized.

In a separate July 20 Times article, reporters Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Carl Hulse correctly reported that Lieberman had referred to Roberts as "in the ballpark." But they, too, overlooked Lieberman's July 14 pledge to "carefully scrutinize" Roberts and contrasted his "ballpark" comment to a statement he released following Roberts's nomination in which Lieberman pledged to "engage in a searching review." In doing so, they suggested Lieberman had backed away from supporting Roberts:

Another Democratic member, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, was cautious in his reaction, saying he would engage in "a searching review." But Mr. Lieberman was quoted last week by his hometown newspaper, The Hartford Courant, as saying Judge Roberts was "in the ballpark" as someone who could be considered without sparking an uproar in the Senate.

In a July 20 article by reporters Dan Balz and Charles Lane, The Washington Post similarly misrepresented Lieberman's comments. Balz and Lane initially omitted Lieberman's actual remarks, baselessly stating that Lieberman had "appeared to say that he saw no justification for a filibuster of Roberts":

Among Democrats, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) may well be the most crucial voice in the Gang of 14. Republicans were pointing last night to a statement he made last week that appeared to say that he saw no justification for a filibuster of Roberts, but an aide said last night that he was misinterpreted and would wait for a fuller examination of Roberts's record before making any judgment about his suitability.

The Post article was later revised to include Lieberman's actual statement and to remove the suggestion that Lieberman had said he saw "no justification" for a filibuster:

Among Democrats, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) may well be the most crucial voice in the Gang of 14. Republicans were pointing last night to a statement he made last week that Roberts was one of several judges "in the ballpark" who might be able to avoid a filibuster. An aide said last night that Lieberman was misinterpreted on the question of Roberts. Lieberman issued a noncommittal statement last night, saying he looks forward to "a searching review" of Roberts's record before making a decision.

In addition, the Courant misrepresented its own July 14 report in a July 20 article assembled from "combined wire services." While the July 20 Courant article correctly pointed out that Lieberman had not endorsed Roberts, it omitted Lieberman's "in the ballpark" comment and instead claimed definitively that "[l]ast week he called Roberts a pick who would not spark a filibuster":

Among Democrats, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., may well be the most crucial voice in the Gang of 14. Last week he called Roberts a pick who would not spark a filibuster, but he did not endorse him or anyone else. Tuesday night, Lieberman pledged a "searching review and consideration of this nominee's fitness for this position."

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Stories/Interests
Supreme Court Nominations
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