On April 9, Fox News' Chris Wallace responded to news of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens' plans to retire by commenting that a nominee to replace him who was “like Sonia Sotomayor” would be “a little bit more to the mainstream.” Following President Obama's nomination of Sotomayor, however, numerous Fox News figures painted her as “an ideologue,” a “racist,” and a judicial activist.
Wallace: A Sotomayor-like pick would be “a little bit more to the mainstream”
From the April 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
WALLACE: A lot of liberals are saying because although he was chosen -- as James pointed out -- by Gerald Ford, John Paul Stevens ended up being perhaps the leader of the liberal wing of the court and the person who spoke most aggressively for them and was best at reaching out to moderates and conservatives on the other side of the court and trying to made deals. And so there are some liberals who say you ought to go for a more liberal person and take on that fight, particularly since he still has 59 votes in the Senate, which he may well not have after November.
On the other hand there are other people who are suggesting, you know, why not do more of a move like Sonia Sotomayor -- a little bit more to the mainstream, not as much of a fight. You've got a lot of big issues, and you don't want to create another tough vote for Democrats heading into the November elections. So it's going to be very interesting to see whether he moves a little bit to the left with his selection or he picks somebody that might not kick up as much of a fight in the Senate.
Fox News portrayed Sotomayor as out of the mainstream
Andrew Napolitano: Sotomayor is “not a moderate,” “she is an ideologue.” Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano stated of Sotomayor: “Here's the big picture: She is not a centrist. She is not a moderate. She is the most liberal of everybody on that group of the six or eight finalists. So the president is obviously putting down a marker for those on the left side of his political party who will rejoice at this nomination.” Napolitano added that Sotomayor is liberal “in every sense of the word, as far as I -- as far as I can tell you. She is a -- she is not a consensus-builder. She is an ideologue.” [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 5/26/09]
Beck tied Sotomayor to ACORN. Glenn Beck stated that the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) -- where Sotomayor “held a number of positions” -- “took hard stances on issues like the death penalty, police brutality and voting rights.” Beck further stated:
BECK: Among the fund's clients, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, aka ACORN, the group acused of voter-registration fraud in over a dozen states. So given Sotomayor's leadership role at the PRLDEF, and its work with ACORN, are you really surprised that ACORN endorsed the nominee on its website?
ACORN's vice president, Maria Polanco, says they are, quote, “inspired” by President Obama's pick. But will Congress also be inspired by this connection during Sotomayor's hearings enough to make her the country's first Hispanic wise Latina woman justice? Judge Sotomayor, the PRLDEF, ACORN, and President Obama: branches of the same tree. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 7/13/09]
Bream reported on critics who said Sotomayor's statement that “the worst victims of crimes” are “minorities” was “extreme” without noting that stats back Sotomayor's claim. Legal correspondent Shannon Bream quoted criticism by the Judicial Confirmation Network's Wendy Long of Sotomayor's reported statement in 1983 that “the worst victims of crimes are not general society -- i.e., white folks -- but minorities themselves.” As Bream noted, Long attacked the reported statement as “extreme,” but Bream did not note that statistics back up Sotomayor. [Fox News' Americas News HQ, 6/14/09]
Fox aired on-screen graphics featuring Sotomayor's college yearbook quote of Socialist Thomas. During the May 2, 2009, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, while co-host Bill Hemmer interviewed Long about Sotomayor, Fox News featured a series of on-screen graphics noting that Sotomayor quoted Norman Thomas, a six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America, in her Princeton University yearbook. According to a graphic included in a slideshow released by the White House, in her “Princeton '76 yearbook page,” Sotomayor quoted Thomas' statement, “I am not a champion of lost causes, but of causes not yet won.” Neither Sotomayor's yearbook page nor Thomas was discussed during the segment. [America's Newsroom, 5/2/09]
Bream falsely suggested Sotomayor's position in Ricci was outside the mainstream of the current court. On the May 26, 2009, edition of Fox News' Special Report, Bream echoed a conservative talking point by falsely suggesting that Sotomayor's position in the New Haven firefighters case, Ricci v. DeStefano, indicates that she is outside the mainstream of the current court. Bream asserted that during April 22, 2009, oral arguments before the Supreme Court, “It appeared ... that many of the Supreme Court justices were sympathetic to the white firefighters' claims.” In fact, at the oral argument in the case, Supreme Court Justice David Souter -- whom Sotomayor replaced -- made comments that were supportive of the position taken by the 2nd Circuit in the case. Moreover, an April 22, 2009, NPR report said of the oral arguments: “The justices seemed closely divided, with the decisive fifth vote likely in the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy.” [Special Report, 5/26/2009]
Fox News suggested Sotomayor is a liberal activist judge
Baier misrepresented Sotomayor statement to claim she “apparently confess[ed]” to “legislating from the bench.” Fox News host Bret Baier aired a cropped clip of Sotomayor's 2005 statement that “the Court of Appeals is where policy is made” to claim that she “apparently confess[ed]” to “legislating from the bench.” In fact, the context of Sotomayor's comments makes clear she was simply explaining the difference between district and appeals courts after being asked to contrast the experiences in clerkships at the two levels. Moreover, Sotomayor's comments are in line with federal appellate courts' “policy making” role, as described by the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2005) and explained by numerous legal experts. [Fox News Reporting: Judging Sotomayor, 7/12/09]
Skinner claimed Sotomayor said “it's her job, really, to make policy from the bench.” Fox News host Jane Skinner asserted that Sotomayor “is coming under some fire for making some comments that were recorded on tape a while back, saying that it's her job, really, to make policy from the bench. Does she have a problem?” In fact, in the tape Skinner was apparently referring to, from a February 25, 2005, Duke University School of Law forum, Sotomayor did not say “it's her job” to “make policy from the bench.” [Fox News' Happening Now, 5/7/09]
Wallace, Bream misrepresented Heller to suggest Sotomayor engaged in “activism.” On May 31, 2009, both Wallace and Bream misrepresented the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in order to suggest that Sotomayor may have -- in Wallace's words -- been “making policy from the bench” in Maloney v. Cuomo.
Fox News smeared Sotomayor as “racist”
Beck, Sowell agreed that Sotomayor is “racist.” Beck discussed with guest Thomas Sowell Sotomayor's ruling in the Ricci case and asked Sowell: “Do you think that was racist? I said yesterday that I thought she was a racist and I got heat for it.” Sowell replied: “Well, the truth does that to people.” [Glenn Beck, 5/27/09]
Fox News asked: Sotomayor's “wise Latina” comments “new racism?” Fox News host Martha MacCallum reported that "[s]ome conservatives continue to hammer Judge Sotomayor, and they are focused on" her comment that “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.” Sotomayor made these comments while discussing the importance of diversity in adjudicating race and sex discrimination cases. During MacCallum's report, the following onscreen graphic aired:
[Fox News' On the Record, 5/29/09]
Williams: Sotomayor's “wise Latina” comment “was a racial statement, if not a racist statement.” Fox News contributor Juan Williams said of Sotomayor's “wise Latina” remarks: “I thought it was a racial statement, if not a racist statement. ... And, I think that you can't go around making statements like that.” [Fox News' Judging Sotomayor, 7/12/09]
Beck called Sotomayor a “racist,” who is “not that bright” and “divisive.” On his radio show, Beck said of Sotomayor: “I think the woman is a racist. ... I think the woman is not so bright ... she is not that bright, and she is a divisive individual.” [Glenn Beck Program, 5/28/09]
Beck: “I think she's a racist. I think she has decided things based on race.” On his radio show, Beck similarly said of Sotomayor: “I think she's a racist. I think she has decided things based on race. I think she says that a Hispanic woman with the experience of being a Hispanic woman can make decisions that a white man can't make.” [Glenn Beck Program, 5/27/09]
O'Reilly tease: "[S]hould white Americans be concerned about Judge Sotomayor." Fox News host Bill O'Reilly teased reports on his show by asking, “Should white Americans be concerned about Judge Sotomayor?” He followed by teasing another segment on his show by saying, “Later, far-left Hispanic group says if you oppose the judge, you could be racist.” [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 7/13/09]
Tucker Carlson: Sotomayor's “wise Latina” comment was “a racist statement by any calculation.” Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson said that "[t]he whole promise of electing Obama is we would take maybe a baby step past identity politics, and that you wouldn't pick people simply because of their race or gender. It's very clear that those were major calculations in this decision. And, by the way, again, she is going to -- I am not attacking her personally, and I have said dumb things myself many, many times -- but I still think she must explain why she went on the record in public saying that because of your race or gender, you are a better or worse judge. ... That's a racist statement by any calculation." [Fox News' The Live Desk, 5/26/09]
Kelly: “Wise Latina” comments are “reverse racism.” Fox News host Megyn Kelly described Sotomayor's “wise Latina” remarks as “reverse racism” and said it was "[l]ike she's saying that Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges." Kelly later added, “I've looked at the entire speech that she was offering to see if that was taken out of context, and I have to tell you ... it wasn't.” [America's Newsroom, 5/26/09]