Mainstream media sources including CNN and The New York Times have repeatedly quoted Carrie Severino in their coverage of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade if implemented. Severino, president of the disreputable conservative group Judicial Crisis Network, has repeatedly spread false and misleading talking points throughout her career in support of a conservative legal agenda.
In comments to CNN, Severino repeated Alito’s sentiment that Roe v. Wade is not “rooted in American history and Constitution” and celebrated the conservative justices supporting Alito’s opinion for knowing “the legitimate way to interpret the Constitution.”
Severino also spoke to The New York Times on May 3, saying that former President Donald Trump nominated judges who are “committed to the original understanding of the Constitution” and that they stand in “contrast with the sort of person Hillary Clinton would have been putting on the court.”
Severino’s statements contrast with comments she made during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In 2018, Severino appeared on Fox News’s The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, where she downplayed Trump’s promise during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would appoint “pro-life justices” as only “shorthand” used “during the campaign” and noted that he “can’t actually ask any nominee … how they would rule on a specific issue.”
Severino has also appeared on CNN International’s Amanpour and CNN’s State of the Union. On the May 3 edition of Amanpour, she praised the court for following the Constitution and commented on the history of the anti-abortion movement to overturn Roe v. Wade. When asked by Amanpour if conservative-appointed judges were misrepresenting or lying about their commitment to protecting court precedent in the case of Roe v. Wade, particularly Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, Severino claimed, “I find nothing surprising about those comments; I mean, they were basic, factual statements. Roe versus Wade is an important precedent of the United States Supreme Court. I can say that with — in full honesty as well.”
Severino went on to claim precedent has nothing to do with overturning Roe v. Wade and that the issue is the constitutionality of the ruling.
On the May 8, 2022, edition of CNN’s State of the Union, Severino was featured on a panel with political commentator Bakari Sellers, conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg, and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. She continued to hammer the supposed unconstitutionality of Roe v. Wade and say abortion laws should be decided by the states.
Severino and the Judicial Crisis Network have a well-documented history of pushing false and misleading talking points related to the courts in support of a right-wing agenda.
In the wake of the Supreme Court leak, Severino repeated unsubstantiated reports circulating in right-wing media that Alito had gone into hiding due to threats from pro-abortion activists. She also tweeted about the “fervent desire of left-wing dark money groups to undermine and corrupt our judiciary,” though Severino’s own organization, Judicial Crisis Network is a dark money group that has become known for influencing judicial nominations.
Severino also participated in the right-wing smear campaign against incoming Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. During the March 20, 2022, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Weekend, Severino promoted a right-wing smear that Brown Jackson supposedly had a history of being soft on sex offenders, saying there was “concern about her softness on crime and particularly her approach towards sex criminals, which is truly disturbing.” These baseless claims were also spread on extremist platforms used by white nationalists and QAnon supporters.
In 2018, Severino and Fox News commentator Mollie Hemingway published Justice On Trial, a book on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh that claimed to “produce an objective account that reflects respect for the rule of law and the presumption of innocence.” An objective account of Kavanaugh from Severino and Hemingway, a pro-Trump pundit, would have been impossible, as the Judicial Crisis Network spent $22 million to ensure Kavanaugh’s confirmation. During the Kavanaugh confirmation process, Severino appeared on Fox News at least 27 times, frequently defending Kavanaugh from criticisms and casting him as a victim of the scrutiny of his character and record. Severino complained, “We’re smearing a poor man’s reputation,” and said allegations against him were “an “attempted smear campaign.”
Also in Justice on Trial, Severino and Hemingway maligned Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford with baseless smears. The book touted reports of Ford’s teenage “interactions with boys and men,” noting that “many high school acquaintances of Ford’s revealed unflattering details about her behavior in high school—some of them truly salacious,” implying Ford was sexually promiscuous with no verification to back up such claims.
Severino also tried to downplay Kavanaugh’s reported assault of Blasey Ford as “boorishness” or just “rough horseplay,” eventually just resorting to the claim that Ford had accused the wrong person.
Other examples of Severino and the Judicial Crisis Network contributing to right-wing lies and attacks include:
- Severino and the Judicial Crisis Network repeatedly pushed a lie-fueled campaign against then-Associate Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta that misrepresented her position on defunding police departments, abolition of the death penalty, and criminal justice reform. JCN’s $800,000 campaign filtered through the Fox News smear machine, but failed to sink Gupta’s nomination.
- While appearing on Fox News’ Fox News @ Night With Shannon Bream, Severino pushed anti-trans misinformation implying that allowing trans women to select their preferred bathrooms will increase violence against women: “Can biological men be required to be admitted to locker rooms, women's locker rooms, with all of the attendants’ safety concerns?” This myth about “bathroom predators” has been repeatedly debunked by experts in areas with LGBT nondiscrimination protections who have seen no reported incidents where sexual predators had taken advantage of the laws.
- In 2016, Severino repeated false claims that then-Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland is anti-gun, stating, “He has a gun vote that makes us think he doesn't even think you have a Second Amendment right to have a gun in your own house for your own protection,” while appearing on ABC’s This Week. She had previously claimed that “in 2007, Judge Garland voted to undo a D.C. Circuit court decision striking down one of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation,” though Garland did not issue any opinion on the case and was joined by a conservative judge in his vote to rehear the case.
- Severino also appeared on CNN’s CNN Newsroom to make similar misleading claims about Garland’s record on the Second Amendment. Severino stated that Garland was a “reliable liberal vote ... especially when we look at his decisions on things like the Second Amendment which he's hostile to.”
- Severino and the Judicial Crisis Network were also behind a smear of a then-potential nominee for an open seat on the Supreme Court, for which Garland was ultimately nominated. Severino pushed the lie that Judge Jane Kelly, while working as a public defender in Iowa, “argued her client was not a threat to society,” when in fact Kelly was presenting the views of a psychologist that her client had been seeing, not her own.
- Severino singled out a Michigan Supreme Court candidate in 2012 for assisting in the representation of Guantanamo detainees, obscuring the fact that the idea that detainees should be denied representation had been repeatedly discredited.
- Severino wrote a blog in 2012 telling Catholics that they were in an abusive relationship with President Barack Obama and therefore Catholic organizations should not support his policy to ensure that women have access to insurance coverage for birth control.
- Severino was part of a baseless effort to force Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to recuse herself from any cases dealing with the Affordable Care Act.
- Severino falsely claimed that then-nominee for the Supreme Court Elena Kagan was “iffy on the Declaration of Independence” because she said she would rely on the Constitution instead of the idea of natural rights to interpret the law during her confirmation hearing.