Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Anti-Alito hitmen in the press

The fair-minded, slightly LEFT of center legal reporter for National Journal, Stuart Taylor, blasts the media's characterization and analysis of Samuel Alito. Taylor reserves special venom for Knight-Ridder's hit piece that appeared a few weeks ago:

. . . such egregious factual errors as the assertion on C-SPAN, by Stephen Henderson of Knight Ridder Newspapers, that in a study of Alito's more than 300 judicial opinions, "we didn't find a single case in which Judge Alito sided with African-Americans ... [who were] alleging racial bias." This, Henderson added, is "rather remarkable."

What is remarkable is that any reporter could have overlooked the at least seven cases in which Alito has sided with African-Americans alleging racial bias. Also remarkable is the illiterate statistical analysis and loaded language used by Henderson and Howard Mintz in a 2,652-word article published (in whole or in part) by some 18 newspapers. It makes the highly misleading claim that in 15 years as a judge, Alito has sought "to weave a conservative legal agenda into the fabric of the nation's laws," including "a standard higher than the Supreme Court requires" for proving job discrimination.

Taylor chronicles the factual errors, shoddy reporting (and inability of reporters to distinguish Alito's words from the sources he quotes) and shilling for liberal anti-Alito groups that major news outlets have performed. The result?

Through various mixes of factual distortions, tendentious wording, and uncritical parroting of misleading attacks by liberal critics, some (but not all) reporters insinuate that Alito is a slippery character who will say whatever senators want to hear, especially by "distancing himself" from past statements that (these reporters imply) show him to be a conservative ideologue.

* * *
The systematic slanting -- conscious or unconscious -- of [ ] news reports has helped fuel a disingenuous campaign by liberal groups and senators to caricature Alito as a conservative ideologue. In fact, this is a judge who -- while surely too conservative for the taste of liberal ideologues -- is widely admired by liberals, moderates, and conservatives who know him well as fair-minded, committed to apolitical judging, and wedded to no ideological agenda other than restraint in the exercise of judicial power.

The quality and ethics of American journalism has been poor for many years. But it has consistently dropped to new nadirs during the George W. Bush presidency.

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