Fox's Scott falsely claimed Leahy criticized Alito for changing "his thinking over time"

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

On Fox News Live, anchor Jon Scott claimed that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) had criticized Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. for "chang[ing] his thinking over time." In fact, Leahy did not criticize Alito for changing his viewpoint over the course of his career; rather, he objected to the nominee's failure to explain inconsistencies between his record and his Senate testimony.

On the January 11 edition of Fox News Live, anchor Jon Scott claimed that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) had criticized Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. for "chang[ing] his thinking over time." But Leahy, the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not criticize Alito for changing his viewpoint over the course of his career. Rather, in a statement released following the second day of Alito's confirmation hearing, Leahy objected to the nominee's failure to explain inconsistencies between his record and his Senate testimony.

In an interview with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Scott stated: "Senator Leahy was criticizing this nominee, suggesting that he has changed his philosophy over time. ... Leahy says he's changed his thinking over time as though that's a bad thing."

In a subsequent interview with former Sen. Don W. Riegle Jr. (D-MI), Scott quoted from Leahy's January 10 statement, in which he described Alito's "vague, inconsistent, and, at times, contradictory testimony to what his record shows and what his answers are today." Scott then asked Riegle: "Does that mean that a judicial nominee isn't supposed to change his thinking over time?"

In fact, Leahy did not address the acceptability of a nominee "chang[ing] his thinking" over the course of his career. As the full text of his January 10 statement shows, Leahy merely noted what he said were discrepancies between what Alito's "record shows and what his answers are today":

Judge Alito's testimony today has raised many questions. There has been vague, inconsistent, and at times, contradictory testimony to what his record shows and what his answers are today.

I am troubled by these inconsistencies. Fresh in our memories and experience is the example of the testimony of Chief Justice Roberts, whose consistent answers helped build a record that gave many of us who voted for him the confidence in his candidacy that we needed to have.

Judge Alito needs to do more than distance himself from his early, troubling writings and views -- he needs to explain why his views are different today and that what he says is not simply the pledge of an eager applicant trying to win a job."

Further, Scott failed to challenge Cornyn's misrepresentation of Alito's statement in a 1985 job application that the Constitution does not protect a woman's right to an abortion. Cornyn claimed that this viewpoint represented "the position a lawyer takes on behalf of a client." But, Alito, in fact, explicitly stated in the application that he "strongly" and "personally" believed that "the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion."

From the January 11 edition of Fox News Live:

SCOTT: Senator Leahy was criticizing this nominee, suggesting that he has changed his philosophy over the time -- over time. He was, I think, referring directly to that 1985 memo he wrote when he was in the Reagan Justice Department, in which he suggested that he didn't feel that abortion was a constitutional right. Now, Senator Leahy says he's changed his thinking over time as though that's a bad thing. Is it?

CORNYN: Well, this is a -- you know, they seem to be a little confused as to whether they want to argue he's changed his thinking or, other hand -- on the other hand, Senator Schumer suggested that he hasn't and he's determined to overrule Roe versus Wade. But, I think, there's a difference -- and, I think, most people recognize it -- between the position a lawyer takes on behalf of a client -- and that was the position of the Reagan administration in 1985 where this nominee was applying for a job -- and the job of a judge, the job he's been performing on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals for the last 15 years.

[...]

SCOTT: Don, we've heard a lot of criticism from the Democratic side of the aisle on this one. Let me read you a statement from Senator Leahy. He says: "Judge Alito's testimony has raised many questions. There's been vague, inconsistent, and, at times, contradictory testimony to what his record shows and what his answers are today." Does that mean that a judicial nominee isn't supposed to change his thinking over time?

RIEGLE: No, I think they are supposed to change their thinking from time to time. Hopefully, they do. I mean, life teaches us new things as we go along.

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Jon Scott
Show/Publication
FOX News Live
Stories/Interests
Supreme Court Nominations, Alito Nomination
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