Fox News' Gallagher falsely suggested Obama advocated "chang[ing] the mission of the Supreme Court"

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

On The Live Desk, Trace Gallagher falsely suggested that in 2001 comments about attempts to pursue "economic justice" through the court system, Sen. Barack Obama had advocated "chang[ing] the mission of the Supreme Court in some facet," a statement with which Bill Sammon agreed. Obama did not advocate changing the mission of the court; to the contrary, Obama said that "traged[y]" lies in the civil rights movement's overreliance on the courts to bring about political and economic justice, when the judicial system is not the appropriate vehicle to effect broad economic change.

On the October 27 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, co-host Trace Gallagher falsely suggested that in 2001 comments about attempts to pursue "economic justice" through the court system, Sen. Barack Obama had advocated "chang[ing] the mission of the Supreme Court in some facet," a statement with which Fox News Washington deputy managing editor Bill Sammon agreed. Gallagher's comments echoed a false headline posted by the Drudge Report earlier on October 27: "2001 Obama: Tragedy That 'Redistribution of Wealth' Not Pursued by Supreme Court." In fact, in the interview to which Gallagher was referring, Obama did not say that the mission of the Supreme Court should be changed. He also did not say, contrary to an assertion by the Drudge Report and by Fox News in on-screen text earlier in the day, documented by Media Matters for America, that it is a "tragedy" that the Supreme Court has not addressed wealth redistribution. To the contrary, as Media Matters for America noted, Obama said that the "traged[y]" lay in the civil rights movement's overreliance on the courts to bring about political and economic justice, when the judicial system is not the appropriate vehicle to effect broad economic change.

During the interview, Obama said:

And one of the -- I think the tragedies of the civil rights movement was, because the civil rights movements became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing, and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And, in some ways, we still suffer from that.

[...]

I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured that way.

[...]

You know, the court's just not very good at it, and politically, it's just -- it's very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So, I mean, I think that, although, you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally -- you know, I think you can, any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts -- I think that, as a practical matter, our institutions just are poorly equipped to do it.

From the October 27 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:

OBAMA [video clip]: That's how we've always grown the American economy, from the bottom up. John McCain calls this socialism. I call it opportunity. And there is nothing more American than that.

MARTHA MacCALLUM (co-host): All right, your thoughts on -- you know, socialism has been one of the biggest words we've heard tossed around in the past couple of days, and in a second, I want to pull up a couple quotes that you found earlier in one of Barack Obama's books. And I want to do that for a very specific reason. But your thoughts on how they're both fighting and waging this war over the best way to solve this economic crisis, Bill.

SAMMON: Well, we talked a second ago about the sort of, you know, the eloquence, the relative eloquence of the two guys, and now we're talking about the substance. I think that's the one area where McCain has a shot, an outside shot, of maybe pulling off an upset. Because I think some of these substantive issues, such as, you know, higher taxes, are we going to head more towards a socialistic government, could play in McCain's favor.

It was interesting -- you just showed a quote there from Barack Obama talking about how, in his view, it's all about opportunity. And then I watched John McCain -- it was the same thing. They're taking this argument and twisting it to their own ends, both men. But I do think that when you start talking about "spread the wealth around," which is what Barack Obama said to Joe the Plumber, and now this new radio thing that came up today where he talks about redistributing the wealth, you know, those two things together are tantamount to socialism to conservatives. That's red meat. That'll fire up the conservative base, who had been a little bit dispirited. And then they might actually show up at the polls and do something here next week.

GALLAGHER: And not even just "spread the wealth," Bill, I mean, it's spread the wealth and then change the mission of the Supreme Court in some facet.

SAMMON: Well, yeah. And he starts talking about the Constitution. It's interesting that all of these things are coming out in the last week.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Trace Gallagher
Show/Publication
The Live Desk
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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