CNN trumpeted month-old news of Alito abortion memo; dragged feet in covering newly released memo suggesting Alito supports warrantless wiretaps

››› ››› SIMON MALOY, JULIE MILLICAN, RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN, ANNA DIMOND & JOE BROWN

CNN reported the release of a 1985 memorandum in which Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. advocated overturning Roe v. Wade; however, the document was the same as a June 3, 1985, memo released by the archives more than three weeks ago. While CNN covered this memo extensively during the first three hours after the story broke, it waited more than four and a half hours to cover a newly released 1984 document in which Alito defended the government's power to order warrantless domestic wiretaps.

On December 23, CNN reported the release of a 1985 memorandum in which Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. advocated overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide. But the document CNN hyped, in fact, was the same as a June 3, 1985, memo originally released by the National Archives on November 30 laying out Alito's strategy of slowly eroding abortion rights and received extensive media coverage at the time.

But while CNN mentioned the abortion memo seven times during the first three hours after it was first reported by the Associated Press, CNN waited more than four and a half hours to report on a newly released 1984 document in which Alito defended the government's power to order warrantless domestic wiretaps.

The AP reported that the abortion memos were the same at 10:42 a.m. ET. CNN did not report it until 11:31 a.m. ET. Neither AP nor CNN noted their prior errors in having reported the abortion memo as newly released.

By contrast, while the AP broke the story on the wiretapping memo by 11:31 a.m. ET, CNN mentioned it for the first time at 4:10 p.m. ET on The Situation Room. In that memo, the AP reported, Alito "defended the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps."

CNN's highlighting of an old memo while largely ignoring a newly released memo that goes to the heart of a major Bush administration scandal raises a question: which memo would the Bush administration prefer the media to focus on -- an already released memo previously reported extensively in the press, or a memo that suggests Alito shares the administration's controversial views on a subject over which Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have sharply criticized President Bush?

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