Nets silent on sexism of anonymous quotes Graham used

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ABC's World News and NBC's Nightly News reported Lindsey Graham's citation of anonymous criticism of Sonia Sotomayor published in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary without noting that Sotomayor's 2nd Circuit Court colleague reportedly called such criticism "sexist."

On their July 14 evening news broadcasts, both ABC's World News and NBC's Nightly News reported Sen. Lindsey Graham's citation of anonymous criticism of Judge Sonia Sotomayor published in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary without noting that Sotomayor's colleague on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Guido Calabresi, has reportedly said of criticism of Sotomayor's temperament on the bench, "It was sexist, plain and simple." Additionally, neither ABC nor NBC noted that, in the words of CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, "[I]f you look at the full entry in this lawyers' guide, Senator Graham did pick out the most negative comments, and there were a lot of positive comments in there, as well," or that the American Bar Association rated Sotomayor its highest possible rating, "well qualified."

On World News, ABC correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg reported that Graham "asked about harsh evaluations from lawyers who have appeared in her courtroom" before airing Graham at the hearing asking Sotomayor, "Do you think you have a temperament problem?" and Sotomayor's response. Similarly, on NBC, correspondent Pete Williams reported that "one Republican noted that some lawyers have said they consider her a bully on the bench beyond merely tough questioning." He then aired Graham stating at the hearing, "Obviously you've accomplished a lot in your life, but maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection. This is pretty tough stuff that you don't see from -- about other judges on the 2nd Circuit."

But neither Crawford Greenburg nor Williams noted that Calabresi reportedly said that Sotomayor's behavior on the bench "was identical" to that of other colleagues. From a May 29 New York Times article:

Judge Guido Calabresi, a former dean of Yale Law School who taught Ms. Sotomayor there and now sits with her on the Second Circuit, said complaints that she had been unduly caustic had no basis. For a time, Judge Calabresi said, he kept track of the questions posed by Judge Sotomayor and other members of the 12-member court. "Her behavior was identical," he said.

"Some lawyers just don't like to be questioned by a woman," Judge Calabresi added. "It was sexist, plain and simple."

He said Judge Sotomayor's forceful and lucid arguments had persuaded him to reconsider his position in a number of instances. "And I'm a tough act," he said.

Similarly, a May 27 McClatchy Newspapers article reported that "Sotomayor's colleague and former Yale Law School professor, Judge Guido Calabresi, became aware of the anonymous sniping after she joined him on the 2nd Circuit in 1998. He eventually concluded that the complaints reflected sexism among male attorneys." The article quoted Calabresi saying of Sotomayor's detractors: "They didn't like the idea of a woman being as strong as her male colleagues." In an interview aired on the May 26 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition, Calabresi similarly said about criticism of Sotomayor's behavior, "When -- some people, when she first came on, asked -- said some things like that, I kept track." He continued:

CALABRESI: Her way of dealing with other people is exactly the same as male judges do. The fact that she is a woman and does that meant that some people thought, oh, women shouldn't act that way. She is a totally fair, good negotiator, good talker with other people, but she's no different from anybody else.

In contrast to Crawford Greenburg and Williams, both Toobin and Fox News contributor Lis Wiehl noted that the anonymous comments Graham cited may reflect gender biases. Toobin stated of Graham's citation of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary: "[I]t's worth remembering that this is an anonymous survey, and all of us who have read blog comments -- I think we know that people in anonymous comments are often unduly hostile. And women in positions of power tend to be described in precisely these terms. You know, men are tough, women are shrill. Men are experienced; women are battle axes. And I think that's a little bit of this kind of commentary we got here." CNN's Wolf Blitzer added, "[L]et's not forget ... that the American Bar Association gave her the highest possible rating as someone very qualified to be on the Supreme Court."

And on July 14, Wiehl stated, "[D]on't forget, any lawyer that goes in front of her, who loses, is going to have a beef with her and say, 'Oh, she was terrible.' " She later added that the criticism of Sotomayor was "she was too tough, and that she was aggressive, which again is a, you know, male-female thing." Moments later, Fox News host Megyn Kelly stated: "In any event, I have to say in her defense, on the lawyer comments, there were only eight of them. If you only have -- to my knowledge -- if you only have eight lawyers going online to complain about you as a judge, I think you're doing OK. If you could hear some of the things that some of the judges said to me when I was practicing law, I would have loved to have gone online and complained about them anonymously. I wouldn't put too much stock in those anonymous comments."

As Media Matters for America has documented, scholars and other media figures have also noted that the criticisms in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary may reflect gender and racial biases. Additionally, The Handbook of Social Psychology -- edited by Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, and described by its publisher as "the standard professional reference for the field of social psychology for many years" -- cites characterizations similar to those used to describe Sotomayor as being among "Anglos' generic stereotypes of Latinos":

Stereotypes and especially subtypes of Latino Americans have received even less research attention, probably because most Anglo Americans (the majority of researchers) differentiate less among types of Latinos than Latinos do themselves (Huddy & Virtanen, 1995). Anglos' generic stereotypes of Latinos include aggressive, poor, lazy, ignorant, loud, unreliable, emotional, unambitious, uneducated, inefficient, rude, messy, unindustrious, family-oriented, and proud (Goodwin & Fiske, 1996; Marin, 1984). The origins of this stereotype content have not been elaborated either, but it might stem from presumed class differences, based on an erroneous assumption that immigrants come from and join only the lower social classes.

From the July 14 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

[begin video clip]

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked about harsh evaluations from lawyers who have appeared in her courtroom.

GRAHAM: Do you think you have a temperament problem?

SOTOMAYOR: No, sir. I believe that my reputation is such that I ask the hard questions, but I do it evenly for both sides.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: On abortion, she said there's a right to privacy, or so the Supreme Court has ruled.

SOTOMAYOR: That is the precedent of the court, and settled.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: On gun rights, she walked a fuzzy line.

SOTOMAYOR: Like you, I understand that -- how important the right to bear arms is to many, many Americans.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: On affirmative action, she quoted Sandra Day O'Connor.

SOTOMAYOR: It is firmly my hope that in 25 years, what race in our society won't be needed to consider any situation.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: As the grueling session drew to a close, Republicans had more questions than answers.

GRAHAM: Who are we getting here?

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And Democrats had more praise.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): In your courtroom, rule of law always triumphs.

[end video clip]

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Now, Judge Sotomayor never lost her composure today as the senators asked question after question. She took vigorous notes -- almost like she was trying to keep her focus by writing as they spoke. And she'll be back in this hearing room again tomorrow for another full round of questions -- Charlie.

From the July 14 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

[begin video clip]

WILLIAMS: And one Republican noted that some lawyers have said they consider her a bully on the bench beyond merely tough questioning.

GRAHAM: Obviously you've accomplished a lot in your life, but maybe these hearings are a time for self-reflection. This is pretty tough stuff that you don't see from -- about other judges on the 2nd Circuit.

[end video clip]

WILLIAMS: The questions and answers continue tomorrow, and toward the end of the week the committee hears from outside witnesses for and against the nomination, Brian.

BRIAN WILLIAMS (host): Pete Williams at the court starting us off tonight. Pete, thanks.

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