Malveaux omitted conservative opposition to Miers's views on abortion, other issues

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux omitted conservative concerns about the political and judicial views of failed Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, reporting only that "the conservatives, of course, roundly rejected Miers for being someone who was an unqualified Bush crony with a very scant judicial record." In fact, while many conservatives took issue with Miers's qualifications, multiple news outlets have reported that conservatives reacted angrily to reports of two decade-old speeches in which Miers had embraced, among other things, "self-determination" on abortion.

From the October 31 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

MALVEAUX: Samuel Alito was once a runner-up, now a frontrunner. Many people considering him to be the anti-Miers. He was really on the short list for President Bush five years ago when he first took office and then became quickly a favorite after Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her resignation. But then took a backseat to John Roberts, as well as to Harriet Miers. Now, the conservatives, of course, roundly rejected Miers for being someone who was an unqualified Bush crony with a very scant judicial record. President Bush today emphasizing that Alito had the judicial philosophy and the experience he believes will satisfy those conservatives.

On October 26 -- one day before Miers withdrew herself from consideration for the court -- The Washington Post published an article describing two speeches that she had delivered in 1993 as president of the Texas Bar Association. Miers had provided the speeches to the Senate Judiciary Committee in preparation for her confirmation hearings. Describing Miers's speech to the Executive Women of Dallas, the Post noted:

Miers appeared to offer a libertarian view of several topics in which the law and religious beliefs were colliding in court.

"The ongoing debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual women's [sic] right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion," Miers said.

Those seeking to resolve such disputes would do well to remember that "we gave up" a long time ago on "legislating religion or morality," she said. And "when science cannot determine the facts and decisions vary based upon religious belief, then government should not act."

The Post further reported that "[a]t a speech later that summer titled 'Women and Courage,' Miers went further. Citing statistics that showed Texas's relatively high poverty rates, Miers said the public should not blame judges when courts step in to solve such problems." In that speech, Miers praised then-newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as other public figures from across the political spectrum.

As The New York Sun reported on October 27, the two speeches "angered conservative groups that had been maintaining a wait-and-see approach to the nomination." Following the Post report, the Concerned Women for America (CWA) -- which had not previously taken a position on Miers -- called for her nomination to be withdrawn. While claiming that "far better qualified candidates were overlooked," CWA chief counsel Jan LaRue noted, "[W]e find several aspects troubling, particularly her views on abortion and a woman's 'self-determination,' quotas, feminism and the role of judges as social activists." LaRue added, "Every time she quotes or cites women she admires, they're to the left of Betty Freidan. ... We'd prefer to have someone fond of quoting [former British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher or [Supreme Court Justice] Antonin Scalia rather than Barbra Streisand and Gloria Steinem." In the same press release, CWA executive director Wendy Wright said, "Though she [Miers] attends an Evangelical church known for its pro-life position, during the same time period she advanced radical feminists and organizations that promote agendas that undermine respect for life and family." A separate October 26 CWA press release blasted Miers's speeches, which, according to CWA, "indicate a radical feminist worldview, a penchant for judicial activism, race and sex quotas, a liberal characterization of the abortion debate and government spending, and an inability to articulate her positions clearly."

In its October 27 article, the Sun reported, "At least two Republican senators are poised to call on the White House to withdraw the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, a highly placed Republican Senate staffer told The New York Sun." The Sun quoted the staffer: "I think with the documents that came out today and the speeches she gave will likely lead to at least a couple senators calling for a withdrawal. The things she said are just outrageous. ... This is the proof of all our deepest fears."

The Washington Times reported on October 27 that "Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the quotations from the speech 'are troubling and raise concerns.' " The Washington Times also noted that Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said of Miers's speeches: "This is very disturbing. Miss Miers' words are a close paraphrase of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision."

On October 28 -- the day after Miers withdrew -- New York Post Washington bureau chief Deborah Orin reported that, according to "Republican sources," Bush dropped his effort to appoint Miers "because she didn't have the votes and conservatives were livid over a 1993 speech in which she sounded pro-choice on abortion." In a list of "six reasons" why Bush dropped the nomination, Orin listed as number one: "Wednesday's revelation that she backed 'self-determination' on abortion in the 1990s made her unacceptable to conservatives."*

The Los Angeles Times reported on October 28 that "[o]ne of the final straws may have been a report early this week that Miers, in a 1993 speech, expressed the view that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about abortion." The Times noted that Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson, who had previously endorsed Miers, "said his group would not have been able to support her candidacy because of the speech." The Los Angeles Times then reported:

In the end, Mr. Brownback said, social conservatives were simply not inclined to go on faith that Ms. Miers was a reliable conservative.

''They had been burnt on so many ones before,'' he said. ''They wanted to really know.''

* The "six reasons" appear in the Nexis database version of Orin's October 28 article but do not appear on the New York Post's website.

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