MSNBC's Alito hearing coverage skewed right well into the night; NBC's Today picked up trend the next morning


On January 9, MSNBC's prime-time coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. featured several Republicans but no Democratic or progressive guests. For the entire day, the channel featured discussion with only two guests critical of Alito. On January 10, NBCis Today followed suit, featuring only a Republican guest in its report on the hearing.

Following MSNBC's live coverage of the first afternoon of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination hearing on January 9 -- during which the channel featured interviews with former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) but no Democratic or progressive guests -- its prime-time coverage featured Buchanan once again, along with former Attorney General John Ashcroft, current RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, and former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson. For the entire day, the network included discussions with only two guests critical of Alito -- author and former Supreme Court clerk Edward Lazarus, who appeared with Buchanan on The Abrams Report, and Air America Radio host Rachel Maddow, who appeared on The Situation with Tucker Carlson during the 11 p.m. hour. On January 10, NBC's Today featured a single guest -- former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) -- in its report on the hearing.

Media Matters for America previously reviewed MSNBC's live coverage of opening statements in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing from noon to 4 p.m. ET January 9 and found that the roster of guests and commentators interviewed about Alito skewed right. The trend continued throughout the evening (all times ET):

  • At 4 p.m., on The Abrams Report, host Dan Abrams featured Ashcroft in a lengthy interview that began with a discussion of the hearing.
  • MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell served as substitute host for Hardball with Chris Matthews at 5 p.m. (re-broadcast at 7 p.m.); she interviewed Olson at the beginning of the program and Mehlman near the end.
  • Finally, at 11 p.m., The Situation with Tucker Carlson hosted Maddow.

The trend continued the next morning, when NBC's Today led off with a report on the hearing by NBC News chief justice correspondent Pete Williams, who recapped the previous day's opening statements. Following Williams's report, Today host Matt Lauer interviewed Thompson, who served as an adviser to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. during his confirmation process last year.

It was not until the 1 p.m. ET hour on the second day of the hearing that MSNBC featured a guest affiliated with the Democratic Party, when O'Donnell interviewed former Howard Dean presidential campaign manager and political consultant Joe Trippi -- along with Buchanan yet again -- during the Judiciary Committee's afternoon break after the first 3 1/2 hours of questioning.

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Today Show
Supreme Court Nominations, Alito Nomination
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