Coburn confirmed he asked Roberts about his Catholic faith and "personal beliefs" -- but media remains uninterested


In a July 29 interview on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) confirmed that he asked Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. about his Catholic faith and whether his "personal beliefs" would affect his rulings as a Supreme Court justice. Despite widespread news coverage of a similar question that Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) allegedly asked, the media have largely ignored Coburn's question about Roberts's faith.

Last week, Media Matters for America pointed out that, on July 23, both the Associated Press and The Daily Oklahoman reported that Coburn said that he had asked Roberts, during a July 22 meeting, how his faith influences his work. Citing Media Matters' item, Hannity & Colmes co-host Alan Colmes asked Coburn if the Daily Oklahoman report was accurate. Coburn responded, "All I did was ask him how his faith impacts his life and how it impacts his marriage and his family." Colmes then asked if Coburn had asked Roberts if "he could separate his personal beliefs from how he might interpret the Constitution." Coburn responded, "Oh, sure. Oh, absolutely."

According to The Daily Oklahoman's July 23 article, "Coburn said he asked Roberts 'a lot of questions,' including personal ones about his faith and family. Roberts declined to answer a question about how his faith -- he is Catholic -- influences his life and work."

Durbin has been criticized for allegedly asking Roberts a similar question. In a July 25 Los Angeles Times op-ed, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote, "Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral." Durbin has said that his question was not reported accurately. Though numerous media outlets have reported on Durbin's alleged question, they have ignored Coburn's now-confirmed line of religious questioning. A search* of the Nexis database reveals that aside from the July 23 AP and Daily Oklahoman articles and Coburn's July 29 Hannity & Colmes interview, no news outlet has even mentioned Coburn's question.

From the July 29 edition of Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: One of the things that came out in The Daily Oklahoman and Media Matters, actually, online, they came up with this. You asked them a lot of questions, the Oklahoman reported, and questions on faith, about his Catholic faith and how it would -- some of the same questions that conservatives have criticized Senator Durbin for asking, claiming that he had a litmus test -- and they reported that the judge said, "I'm very uncomfortable talking about that to you." Is that an accurate report?

COBURN: Oh, I don't think he was uncomfortable at all talking about his faith. All I did was ask him how his faith impacts his life and how it impacts his marriage and his family. I found him very cordial and not defensive, you know, and I think that's an important part. That has nothing to do, however, with how he makes decisions on the Supreme Court, nor should it. The decisions he makes on the Supreme Court should be based on the U.S. Constitution --

COLMES: Right, but did you ask him, for example, whether or not he could separate his personal beliefs from how he might interpret the Constitution?

COBURN: Oh, sure. Oh, absolutely. We had good conversations about the role of the Supreme Court and what the Constitution says its role is and what its proper functioning should be.

* Nexis search was for "Coburn and Roberts and Supreme Court" in "News, all" from July 22 to August 1.

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