Why Won't Fox News Let This Republican Congressman Talk About Voting Rights?

Conservative Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is a legal expert who led the last reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 2006 and has since called for the renewal of this crucial civil rights law after the Supreme Court struck down a key part of it -- but you won't hear about that from Sensenbrenner on Fox News.

Sensenbrenner used to be a favorite of Fox, appearing repeatedly on the network to provide expert legal analysis informed by his experience helming historic legislation, such as the Patriot Act. Fox host Sean Hannity once called Sensenbrenner “one of the guys that has always been on principle ... fighting the good fight every day.” But that all changed when the conservative justices of the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the VRA in the now infamous Shelby County v. Holder and Sensenbrenner reached across the aisle to once again draft a reauthorization.

Now, this preeminent Republican can't seem to get his voting rights expertise heard on Fox News.

In June of 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County found that Section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional  in a bitterly split 5-4 decision. This section, which requires states with a documented history of racial discrimination at the polls to seek preclearance from the Department of Justice before making significant changes to voting procedures, provided much-needed protection for voters who might otherwise be disenfranchised. In fact, it worked so well that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that striking down the provision was tantamount to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Just days after the Court struck down Section 4, states like North Carolina immediately began to construct barriers to democratic participation.

As part of the bipartisan group trying to fix the damage that Shelby County caused, Sensenbrenner is now urging his Republican colleagues to renew the VRA and reinstate its protections, calling the VRA “one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed, and is vital to our commitment to never again permit racial prejudices in our electoral process” and adding that "[b]y striking down Section 4, the Court presented Congress with both a challenge and a historic opportunity.  We are again called to restore the critical protections of the act by crafting a new formula that will cover jurisdictions with recent evidence of discrimination."

Sensenbrenner feels so strongly about the VRA that on January 16, he joined Democratic congressmen and senators to introduce “bipartisan legislation to uphold the most vital principles of the historic law.”

But Fox viewers probably didn't hear about it. That's because, according to a Nexis search, Fox apparently hasn't had Sensenbrenner on to discuss this new piece of legislation, or the VRA decision in general.


Media Matters conducted a search of Nexis transcripts of Fox News and Fox Business Channel for the name “Sensenbrenner” from June 25, 2013 to January 24, 2014.

Photo via Flickr.