Appearing on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, retired federal district judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. falsely claimed that his opposition to abortion rights was the primary reason that Democrats filibustered his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in 2003. Co-host Sean Hannity falsely accused Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) of labeling Pickering a "cross-burner."
In fact, in explaining their opposition to Pickering, Democrats cited his extraordinary efforts to circumvent federal sentencing requirements by forcing federal prosecutors to drop a criminal charge against a convicted cross-burner. During his nomination hearing in 2002, Democrats sharply questioned Pickering about his actions in the case, which a group of law professors described in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee as a breach of judicial ethics.
Democrats also cited other factors in opposing Pickering: the 5th Circuit frequently overturned his district court decisions for violating "well-settled principles of law"; he has acknowledged a predisposition against employment discrimination claims; and at his 1990 district court nomination hearing, he made a false statement to the committee about his contact with the segregationist Mississippi Sovereignty Commission.
Contrary to Hannity's assertion, Kerry did not characterize Pickering as a "cross-burner." Rather, Kerry described Pickering as a nominee "who advocated tirelessly on behalf of a cross-burner."
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
PICKERING: Ten years before -- earlier, the Senate had confirmed me unanimously, and, at that time, the ABA [American Bar Association] had rated me qualified, and in 2000 and into 2001 they rated me well-qualified. So I had a better recommendation from the ABA the second time around, but I was filibustered the second time around and unanimously confirmed the first time. I had not changed during that time. The politics had changed. It was abortion and the extreme groups that pushed the Democratic Party way, way to the left.
HANNITY: Here's the point, Judge: Sen. John Kerry referred to you as "a cross-burner." Now, if the Republicans made a deal with these Democrats, the same thing would happen to you again, because you would be extraordinary circumstances.
After Democrats filibustered his nomination, President Bush granted Pickering a recess appointment to the 5th Circuit in January 2004. When this appointment expired in December 2004, Pickering retired.