During Fox News’ coverage of the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Fox host Martha MacCallum invoked the so-called Ginsburg rule to suggest that Kavanaugh could evade questions about his judicial philosophy and views on controversial issues. Republicans have been pushing the claim that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to answer senators’ questions during her own confirmation hearing to justify Kavanaugh's evasiveness. In reality, Ginsburg offered substantive responses about her positions on a variety of topics, including a constitutional right to abortion.
From Fox News’ September 5 coverage of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings:
MARTHA MACCALLUM (CO-HOST): You think back to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who said, you know, no foretelling, no forecasts, no signs from me about how I would rule on any of these issues. And that really has become the norm in these hearings where the nominee struggles to keep any -- to hold back any light that could be shed on how they would rule on any one of these hot button issues.
As NPR notes, Ginsburg, like others before her, did say in her opening remarks that “it would be improper for her to give any hints of how she might rule in future cases.” However, “she did answer questions about what she considered settled law ... including her view that the Constitution includes a right to privacy,” as well as responding substantively to questions about “affirmative action, gender discrimination, single-sex education, [and] the limits of congressional powers.” Ginsburg did not shy away from expressing her stance on reproductive rights, telling the senators that the right to have an abortion is “central to a woman's life, to her dignity. It's a decision that she must make for herself. And when Government controls that decision for her, she's being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
Far from refusing to answer the committee questions, Ginsburg was actually one of the most responsive Supreme Court nominees in history, according to a study NPR cited. President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, however, was the “least responsive nominee in decades.” Kavanaugh's handlers’ refusal to provide documents from his time with the Bush administration suggests that he may be similarly evasive during his confirmation hearings. For right-wing figures to point to the “Ginsburg rule” to defend his evasiveness, however, is nothing more than a bad faith attempt to legitimize his refusal to comment on important topics.