The WSJ's woeful Sotomayor coverage today

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

And this was in the Journal's news pages, not even the anti-Sotomayor opinion pages. In general the Journal's Sotomayor reporting today is just awful, at least the political coverage of the pick. The Journal's analysis of her legal career is more insightful.

Here's a passage from the Journal's A1 news story:

Conservative opponents questioned the usefulness of "empathy" as a qualification. They will have ammunition as they seek to paint Ms. Sotomayor as a liberal activist and strong backer of affirmative action who would use the Supreme Court to make law, not interpret it. A video from Duke University in 2005 shows Ms. Sotomayor proclaiming the "court of appeals is where policy is made."

Reading right off GOP talking points, the Journal twice hypes the phony "empathy" card, pretending it's a very big deal. In fact, three times, because the newspaper devotes an entire, separate article to the issue. The Journal news team thinks its hugely significant that at some point Obama made a passing reference to "empathy" in terms of traits that would best suit a Supreme Court Justice. Interestingly though, the Journal never actually quotes Obama saying anything about empathy. Readers are just supposed to assume that Obama's made a big deal about it even though it's the GOP that's focused on the silly word game. (The Journal also plays dumb about the fact that Republican senators in the past have praised "empathy" while discussing possible SCOTUS picks.)

Nonetheless, the Murdoch's Journal dutifully plays along with the GOP's preferred narrative, not just with the "empathy" nonsense, but with the tape of Sotomayor at Duke saying the "court of appeals is where policy is made"? Without offering the slightest bit of context about the quote, the Journal states as fact that that quote will provide "ammunition" to her "conservative opponents."

This is simply the Journal bypassing actual journalism in favor of regurgitating GOP talking points. Not once but twice. Here's the newspaper's sidebar article:

[Critics] also circulated a YouTube video of a 2005 appearance at Duke University, where Ms. Sotomayor said that the "Court of Appeals is where policy is made." She joked that she shouldn't speak on tape, but went on to say the law percolated at the appellate-court level before its final interpretation by the Supreme Court.

The Journal makes no effort to provide any sort of context to the quote. The Journal also makes no effort to do what the Huffington Post recently did, which was interview legal scholars to see if Sotomayor's Duke quote was in any way controversial, let alone newsworthy.

Here's what the Huffpost found:

Eric Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University, was equally dismissive of this emerging conservative talking point. "She was saying something which is the absolute judicial equivalent of saying the sun rises each morning. It is not a controversial proposition at all that the overwhelming quantity of law making work in the federal system is done by the court of appeals... It is thoroughly uncontroversial to anyone other than a determined demagogue."

Apparently the Journal would rather not have that kind of context collide with the rather shaky GOP talking points it presents as news.

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