NY Times ignored Sessions' double standard in nomination timing

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

The New York Times quoted Sen. Jeff Sessions' criticism of the timing of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing, but did not note that, according to the Times itself, Sessions called for fast action on Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation process, saying, "We don't need to read everything he has written."

In a June 9 article about the announcement that Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearing would begin on July 13, The New York Times quoted Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) criticism of the timing of the hearing, but did not note that, according to the Times itself, Sessions called for fast action on Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation process, saying, "We don't need to read everything he has written." The article, by David M. Herszenhorn, reported that Sessions said in a Senate floor speech, "I'm disappointed this morning that we learned from media reports -- I did -- that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator [Patrick] Leahy [D-VT], announced we would begin the hearings on July 13," and that "[i]t's far more important we do this right than we do it quick." Likewise, in a June 9 Associated Press article, writer Julie Hirschfeld Davis uncritically reported for at least the third time Sessions' criticism of the confirmation timeline.

In his June 9 Times article, Herszenhorn also reported that Republicans said "the timetable would recklessly short-circuit the review process" and that "[t]op Republicans had urged that hearings be delayed until September so they could review what they said was an unusually large record of court decisions, law review articles and speeches over the course of Judge Sotomayor's 17 years on the federal bench, first as a district judge and then on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit." Indeed, in his floor speech, Sessions said: "[F]irst and foremost, we are committed to giving this nominee a fair, good, just hearing. But to do so requires that we have an opportunity to examine her record of probably more than 4,000 cases. In addition to that, she has given a lot of speeches and written law review articles, which need to be analyzed."

However, in a June 2 Times article, Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse reported: "Judge Sotomayor's supporters pointed out that Mr. Sessions's cautious approach seemed to stand in contrast to his view of Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s confirmation to the court in 2005, when he urged fast action. 'Let's not leave it hanging out there,' Mr. Sessions said at the time. 'We don't need to read everything he has written.' "

In the June 9 AP article, Hirschfeld Davis reported that "Republicans were blindsided by Leahy's announcement," and that "they complained about the schedule and warned they would press their argument." She went on to quote Sessions' criticism that the "rush is ill-advised," but not that Sessions previously urged fast action on Alito's confirmation. As Media Matters for America documented, Hirschfeld Davis has repeatedly uncritically reported Sessions' criticism of the proposed pace of Sotomayor's confirmation process.

From the June 9 New York Times article:

After consulting closely with the White House, Senate Democrats announced Tuesday that hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court would begin on July 13, infuriating Republicans who said that they had been blind-sided and that the timetable would recklessly short-circuit the review process.

[...]

Top Republicans had urged that hearings be delayed until September so they could review what they said was an unusually large record of court decisions, law review articles and speeches over the course of Judge Sotomayor's 17 years on the federal bench, first as a district judge and then on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The Republicans were clearly caught off guard by the announcement by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, that he had set a date for hearings to begin, a point they complained about in angry speeches on the Senate floor.

"I'm disappointed this morning that we learned from media reports -- I did -- that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, announced we would begin the hearings on July 13," said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the committee.

"It's far more important we do this right than we do it quick," Mr. Sessions added.

There are only limited parliamentary tools that Republicans can use to slow the process, and they have been wary about being overly aggressive in opposing the nomination of the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court. Some party leaders had suggested that the best tactic was to bide time, allowing for an unexpected development.

From the June 9 AP article:

Republicans were blindsided by Leahy's announcement but cognizant that they have few options short of moving to block votes on Sotomayor or hold up Senate business -- both politically unpalatable choices -- to delay the timetable. Instead, they complained about the schedule and warned they would press their argument.

"I'm going to insist that we do it right," said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who had been in private negotiations with Leahy on a hearing date. "This rush is ill-advised,"

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama was pleased with the schedule.

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