Arguing that Democrats looked "like bullies," Newsweek ignored conservative groups' efforts to capitalize on Alito's wife's tears

››› ››› SAM GILL

A Newsweek article argued that Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s wife bursting into tears during his nomination hearing has left Democrats "looking like bullies," thanks to "a coalition of liberal interest groups" that "pushed the lawmakers to come on stronger." But the article ignored the campaign launched by conservatives immediately after the incident to blame Democrats for Martha-Ann Alito's tears, which came during Sen. Lindsey Graham's questioning.

In a January 23 article in Newsweek, managing editor Evan Thomas and Washington bureau chief Daniel Klaidman argued that an incident during the Senate hearing for Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. -- when his wife, Mary-Ann Alito, burst into tears -- has left Democrats "looking like bullies," thanks to "a coalition of liberal interest groups" that "pushed the lawmakers to come on stronger." But Thomas and Klaidman's assessment -- that "liberal interest groups" were in part responsible for Democrats "looking like bullies" -- ignored the campaign launched by conservatives immediately after the incident to blame Democrats for Martha-Ann Alito's tears, which came not during Democrats' questioning of Alito but during Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) characterization of the Democrats' questioning. Indeed, the Thomas-Klaidman article might itself be seen as evidence of conservatives' success in tarring Democrats over the incident.

Asserting that Mary-Ann Alito's "tears probably sealed Alito's confirmation," Newsweek asked "How did Democrats wind up looking like bullies?" Thomas and Klaidman wrote:

Part of the answer lies in the behind-the-scenes machinations. The Democratic lawmakers are strongly influenced by a coalition of liberal interest groups, who have been pouring money into ads warning that Alito is a right-wing extremist who will strip away a woman's right to an abortion. When the Democratic senators, for all their blather, seemed too soft on Alito on the first day of questioning, the interest groups pushed the lawmakers to come on stronger.

Thomas and Klaidman's explanation ignores conservatives' own "behind-the-scenes-machinations." Time magazine reported that conservatives immediately "seized on the [crying] incident to complain about Democratic 'bullying,' and said they plan to make the incident a cause célèbre." An article by reporter Mike Allen continued:

"When will the media shame these people for their behavior?" Sean Rushton, executive director of the administration-friendly Committee for Justice, asked in a blast e-mail to journalists. The always-alert Creative Response Concepts, a conservative public relations firm, sent this bulletin: "Former Alito clerk Gary Rubman witnessed Mrs. Alito leaving her husband's confirmation in tears and is available for interviews, along with other former Alito clerks who know her personally and are very upset about this development."

In case that was too much trouble for the journalists, the firm also e-mailed out a statement from the Judicial Confirmation Network calling "for the abuse to stop."

During CNN's January 12 coverage of the hearings, former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, who has served as an adviser to Alito during his nomination, was quick to capitalize on the strategy, using Alito's wife's emotional display as a way to condemn Democrats:

GILLESPIE: She's fine. Look, Wolf [Blitzer], yesterday got very personal, and innuendo and borderline smear campaign. And I've got to tell you, I've worked with Judge Alito, who is an incredibly honorable, decent, good man, for the past three months in preparation for these hearings. It was hard for me to sit there and listen to what the Democrats are trying to imply. So I can imagine what it must have felt like for his wife. And I think when Senator Graham rightly pushed back and put this on the table, I can understand how she got emotional. But I have to say, I think the Democrats -- it seems like they realize they overreached.

Fidelis, a conservative advocacy group in favor of Alito's confirmation, posted an article from CNSNews.com on its website, which read:

Supporters of Judge Samuel Alito are condemning what they consider unfair attacks on the Supreme Court nominee -- attacks that distressed his wife to the point of tears on Wednesday.

From an article in the January 23 issue of Newsweek:

Her tears probably sealed Alito's confirmation. How did the Democrats wind up looking like bullies? Part of the answer lies in the behind-the-scenes machinations. The Democratic lawmakers are strongly influenced by a coalition of liberal interest groups, who have been pouring money into ads warning that Alito is a right-wing extremist who will strip away a woman's right to an abortion. When the Democratic senators, for all their blather, seemed too soft on Alito on the first day of questioning, the interest groups pushed the lawmakers to come on stronger.

Network/Outlet
Newsweek
Stories/Interests
Supreme Court Nominations, Alito Nomination
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