On Hardball, Chuck Todd falsely claimed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit "wants to get rid of the Pledge" of Allegiance. In fact, in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, a 9th Circuit panel did not decide that the entire Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional, but rather "h[e]ld that ... the 1954 Act adding the words 'under God' to the Pledge ... violate[s] the Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment.
On the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, NBC political director Chuck Todd falsely claimed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit "wants to get rid of the Pledge" of Allegiance. In fact, in the case that Todd was referring to, Newdow v. U.S. Congress, a three-judge 9th Circuit panel did not decide that the entire Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional, but rather "h[e]ld that ... the 1954 Act adding the words 'under God' to the Pledge ... violate[s] the Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment. As the 9th Circuit noted, before the 1954 act, the Pledge of Allegiance was: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The court did not find anything unconstitutional about the remaining language of the pledge. (The Supreme Court subsequently vacated the 9th Circuit's decision, on the grounds that the plaintiff, Michael Newdow, did not have standing to bring the case.)
Todd made his comment while discussing Gov. Sarah Palin's response to this question from CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric: "What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?"
In addition, during the discussion, host Chris Matthews falsely suggested that the Supreme Court has "outlaw[ed] prayer in public school." Palin, Matthews said, has "never heard of the Brown case, she's never heard of 'separate but equal' being outlawed by the Supreme Court, never heard outlawing prayer in public school, never heard of any of the Supreme Court decisions like Dred Scott." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, the Supreme Court's 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision and successive cases in the field did not prohibit all prayer in public school; rather, Engel barred state-sponsored prayer.
As the Supreme Court stated in its 2000 decision in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, "[N]othing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday. But the religious liberty protected by the Constitution is abridged when the State affirmatively sponsors the particular religious practice of prayer."
From the October 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at Sarah Palin the other night -- last night on CBS with Katie Couric. She was asked about the Supreme Court and showed very little knowledge of that topic. Let's take a look.
[begin video clip]
COURIC: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?
PALIN: Well, let's see. There's -- of course, in the great history of America, there have been rulings that there's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others, but --
COURIC: Can you think of any?
PALIN: Well, I would think of any, again, that could be best be dealt with on a more local level, maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as a mayor and then as a governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things, but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.
[end video clip]
MATTHEWS: I'm dying. I'm dying, Chuck. I mean, it reminds me of the president's press secretary that didn't -- never heard of the Cuban missile crisis. She's never heard of the Brown case, she's never heard of "separate but equal" being outlawed by the Supreme Court, never heard outlawing prayer in public school, never heard of any of the Supreme Court decisions like Dred Scott. None of them came to mind.
TODD: And you know what's going to frustrate some social conservatives? She comes from a state that is a part of the most liberal circuit court in the country, the 9th Circuit, the circuit that makes conservatives crazy, the circuit that wants to get rid of the pledge, the circuit that wants to --
MATTHEWS: San Francisco.
TODD: Exactly. Alaska's part of that circuit. In fact, they wish they weren't, and they have judges that live in Fairbanks. And had she pivoted the answer, had she said, "You know what? I'm not going to sit here and tell you how many Supreme Court cases I can recite. I can tell you what -- how frustrating it is to deal with the liberal 9th Circuit." Can I just tell you, conservatives would have loved it, the conservative elites would have loved it, because it would have shown some, some knowledge on that point.