On C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Washington Examiner senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court halted the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election by a 7-2 margin; and that a study of the 2000 presidential vote in Florida, commissioned by a consortium of major media outlets, “concluded essentially that [George W.] Bush would have won even if the Supreme Court hadn't stopped the counting.” Both of these statements are false
On the March 14 edition of C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Washington Examiner senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon falsely claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court halted the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election by a 7-2 margin; and that a study of the 2000 presidential vote in Florida, commissioned by a consortium of major media outlets, “concluded essentially that [George W.] Bush would have won even if the Supreme Court hadn't stopped the counting.”
Hosted by Peter Slen, the broadcast featured Sammon and David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, discussing the state of the Republican Party in light of President Bush's low approval ratings and the failed deal for control of shipping terminals at six U.S. seaports by Dubai Ports World (DPW). During the discussion, a caller questioned the results of the 2000 presidential election in which the Supreme Court issued a decision on December 12, 2000, reversing the Florida Supreme Court and stopping the recount of ballots in that state, thus allowing Bush, then governor of Texas, to narrowly defeat then-Vice President Al Gore in that state.
Sammon told the caller that “there's this sort of lingering myth ... that somehow the Supreme Court, in a narrowly divided decision, stopped the counting and thereby handed the election to George W. Bush” and claimed falsely that the Supreme Court decided the case of Bush v. Gore by a vote of 7-2. In fact, while the court issued a per curiam opinion in which the individual vote breakdown was not given, a review of the separate opinions written or joined by individual justices indicates that five voted to stop the recount and four voted to let it go forward. Slen did not challenge Sammon's assertion.
Sammon's claim that the court decided the case 7-2 was a reference to opinions by two of the dissenting justices -- David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer -- agreeing with the majority that the recount as ordered by the Florida Supreme Court violated the Equal Protection Clause. But, contrary to Sammon's claim, their position was not that the recount should be halted, but that the case should be remanded to the state court to correct the constitutional infirmity.
Sammon's assertion of a Bush victory in a model recount conducted by mainstream media outlets was similarly misleading. Apparently referring to a study conducted by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center (NORC) -- organized by a consortium that included The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, the Associated Press, the Tribune Co. (publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel), and The Wall Street Journal -- Sammon misrepresented the results. The NORC researchers “examined all ballots that were initially rejected by voting machines” and then applied “different standards for determining voter intent and tallied results based on several scenarios that sought to approximate conditions on the ground in Florida.”
Contrary to Sammon's claim that the media recounts “all concluded” that Bush would have emerged victorious, different recount scenarios yielded different winners, as Media Matters for America has previously documented. According to the Post, when the recount tallied ballots in which “at least one corner of a chad was detached from punch-card ballots,” Gore won Florida by 60 votes. "[U]nder the least-restrictive standard for interpreting voter intent, which counted all dimpled chads and any discernible optical mark (which in the case of optical ballots Florida's new election law now requires to be counted as votes)," the Post reported, “Gore had 107 more votes.” One recount with a “more restrictive interpretation of what constitutes a valid mark on optical scan ballots” -- and in which chads had to be “fully punched” -- saw Gore win by 115 votes. And a recount that replicated “the standards established by each of the counties in their recounts” gave Gore 171 more votes than Bush.
From the March 14 edition of C-SPAN's Washington Journal:
SAMMON: President Bush won the state of Florida in 2000 by 537 votes. There were many recounts that were instituted by Al Gore. At some point, the Supreme Court got involved, and there's this sort of lingering myth to this day that somehow the Supreme Court, in a narrowly divided decision, you know, stopped the counting and thereby handed the election to George W. Bush. First of all, it was a 7-to-2 decision. Secondly, even the press, which cites this continuously -- for example, The New York Times led a consortium of mainstream media news outlets -- CNN, The Washington Post -- on what I call “the mother of all media recounts.” There were many media recounts of the ballots after the Supreme Court stepped in, and they all concluded essentially that Bush would have won even if the Supreme Court hadn't stopped the counting. So, to continuously talk about how Bush stole the election and the Supreme Court handed him the election when the press itself -- which is certainly no fan of President Bush -- demonstrated that if you actually counted all the ballots, every which way you cut it, Bush would have won, I think, is silly.