Be sure to bookmark Judicial Matters for the latest on conservative misinformation in media coverage of President Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
On Tuesday morning, President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. In the four short days that followed, understandably, most of the media's attention has centered on the nominee, though much of that attention has been riddled with conservative misinformation.
Yesterday, Media Matters released a special report noting that in coverage of Obama's announcement, the media have advanced numerous myths and falsehoods about Sotomayor. In some cases, the media assert the falsehoods themselves; in others, they report unchallenged the claims of others.
The report suggests that in addition to evaluating these claims on their merits, the media should also consistently report that conservatives were reportedly very clear about their intentions to oppose Obama's nominee, no matter who it was. Their attacks must be assessed in the context of their reported plans to use the confirmation process to, among other things, "help refill depleted coffers and galvanize a movement demoralized by Republican electoral defeats."
As documented in the report, the myths that have emerged or resurfaced since Sotomayor's nomination was announced include:
- Sotomayor advocated legislating from the bench
- Sotomayor said, "Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges"
- Sotomayor's Supreme Court reversal rate is "high"
- Liberal judges like Sotomayor are "activist[s]"
- Sotomayor was "[s]oft on New Jersey [c]orruption"
- New Haven firefighters case shows Sotomayor is an "activist"
- Sotomayor lacks the intellect to be an effective justice
- Sotomayor is "domineering" and "a bit of a bully"
- "Empathy" is code for "liberal activist"
Be sure to read the entire report for a detailed breakdown of the facts dispelling these right-wing myths and falsehoods.
In all, this week, Media Matters released more than 100 research items, blog posts, video clips, and columns surrounding media coverage of the Supreme Court and Sotomayor's nomination.
As the week went on, it became clearer that Sotomayor would be a victim of attacks from conservatives in the media reminiscent of those on Obama:
- MSNBC's Pat Buchanan called Sotomayor a "lightweight," "an anti-white, liberal judicial activist." He and his sister Bay both claimed that Sotomayor's nomination was the result of "affirmative action."
- Media Matters' Eric Boehlert went head-to-head with former Rep. Tom Tancredo on CNN over the context of Sotomayor's past comments. During the segment, Tancredo claimed Sotomayor was a member of the "Latino KKK," earning the right-wing former congressman the mocking of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
- Jeffrey Kuhner, filling in for right-wing radio host Michael Savage, claimed Sotomayor believes "that America is a racist, sexist, homophobic and misogynist society."
- Fox News' Glenn Beck said Sotomayor's appointment was more evidence of a Marxist "hostile takeover" of the United States. He also called her a "racist," who "is not that bright" and "divisive."
- Savage described Sotomayor as "Chairman O's pick for the Supreme Court" and a "radical activist."
- Radio host and conservative movement leader Rush Limbaugh called Sotomayor "an angry woman," "bigot," and "racist."
- Mark Krikorian, over at the National Review Online, had an issue with the pronunciation of Sotomayor's name, writing that "it sticks in my craw."
- Fox News' Sean Hannity claimed Obama turned "his back on Mainstream America" by nominating "the most divisive nominee possible," a "radical."
- Politico's Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin initially reported that Sotomayor was "a Latina single mother" despite the fact that Sotomayor has no children.
If media coverage of week one of the Sotomayor nomination is any indication, it's going to be a long, hot summer. Fear not, though -- Media Matters will be there through it all.
Other major stories this week:
Is there something in the water at Fox Nation?
Back in March, while promoting its newly launched website, TheFoxNation.com, Fox News ran advertisements telling viewers that "[i]t's time to say 'no' to biased media and 'yes' to fair play and free speech." In the weeks since the website's launch, Media Matters has documented more than 50 instances where Fox Nation failed to come close to the bias-free, "fair play" standard set out by Fox News.
This week has been particularly awful. Case in point:
- Fox Nation is just asking: "Sotomayor Argued Death Penalty Is Racist... Is She?"
- With picture of burning WTC, Fox Nation wonders if Obama has "Pre-9/11 Mindset"
- Fox Nation: "Need Another Tea Party? National Sales Tax 'on the Table' "
- Fox Nation baselessly claims Sotomayor "Wants to Ban Guns"
- Fox News still trafficking in birth certificate theories
- Continuing to be "bias"-free, Fox Nation calls Obama "Cocky Barack"
Be sure to check out the Media Matters archive on Free Republic ... er, Fox Nation.
Rush Limbaugh's Failure-palooza
By now, everybody watching the Obama administration remembers Rush Limbaugh's well wishes for the new president the day before his inauguration -- that's when El Rushbo said, "I hope Obama fails." The comment picked up a head of steam in the press, provoking Limbaugh to elaborate two days later, saying, "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles ... because his father was black." A month later, Rush let us all in on "the dirty little secret," as he described it, that "every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so; I am willing to say it."
Since then, Rush has been quick to wish failure on all kinds of things. For example, back in February, Limbaugh said, "I want the stimulus package to fail." In March, he strangely compared his hope for Obama's failure to a Steelers fan wanting the Cardinals' QB to fail in the Super Bowl. The same month, he seemed to offer up some reverse psychology, claiming, "If there's anybody who wants America as it was founded to fail, it's Barack Obama."
And so, Rush Limbaugh's failure-palooza marched on this week as news of Obama's selection of Sotomayor for a seat on the Supreme Court was reported. Without skipping a beat, Limbaugh said of the president's nominee: "Do I want her to fail? Yeah."
To give you an idea of how completely warped Rush's thinking is, two days after his Sotomayor "fail" comments, Limbaugh claimed, "This country is failing because President Obama is succeeding."
So, was it Sasquatch or Chupacabra driving the Chrysler?
Another week, another bizarre conspiracy theory from the right. Eric Boehlert brings us the story of the budding Obama scandal that's been hatched this week within the right-wing blogosphere, which has all the hallmarks of previous failed Obama conspiracy theories. The latest centers on the idea that Obama's White House, as part of the automaker's restructuring, personally selected which Chrysler dealership would be closed. Not only that, but the Obama White House punished dealerships whose owners gave campaign contributions to Republicans. The horror!
Conservative bloggers excitedly claim that their research proves a massive conspiracy's afoot. Their research? A laundry list of names of dealers who have indeed given money to the GOP and have indeed been closed down as part of the GM restructuring. So why doesn't that prove Obama has a hit list? First, because nearly 800 dealerships are being closed down, yet bloggers detail campaign contributions for less than 10 percent of those dealership owners. Second, all the bloggers actually prove is that a lot of dealership owners are Republicans. Does that surprise anyone?
Statistician Nate Silver demolishes the theory with actual research, noting, "It shouldn't be any surprise, by the way, that car dealers tend to vote -- and donate -- Republican. They are usually male, they are usually older (you don't own an auto dealership in your 20s), and they have obvious reasons to be pro-business, pro-tax cut, anti-green energy and anti-labor. Car dealerships need quite a bit of space and will tend to be located in suburban or rural areas. I can't think of too many other occupations that are more natural fits for the Republican Party."
This week's media columns
This week's media columns from the Media Matters senior fellows: Eric Boehlert asks why Washington Post columnists didn't call Cheney a disgrace; Jamison Foser looks at how suddenly it's OK to call a judicial nominee a racist; and Karl Frisch discusses the Right's supremely flawed opening argument against Sotomayor.
Don't forget to order your autographed copy of Eric Boehlert's compelling new book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press (Free Press, May 2009).
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This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a senior fellow at Media Matters. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary.