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  • Media are misleadingly characterizing Brett Kavanaugh as “mainstream”

    Researchers found that Kavanaugh "is an uncommonly partisan judge" who "justified his decisions with conservative doctrines far more than his colleagues," particularly in the run-up to elections

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On July 9, President Donald Trump nominated conservative D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court in a move that would undoubtedly shift the court far to the right and out of step with the American people. Many media figures, though, have casted Kavanaugh as a centrist pick, citing his ties to former President George W. Bush and saying he is less conservative than other potential nominees.

    • MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called Kavanaugh “such a mainstream pick” and praised him for voicing opposition to indicting a sitting president, saying it “speaks to the content of the judge’s character” because it was written under a Democratic president.

    • CNN senior political analyst and occasional host John Avlon praised Trump’s choice as “not as far right” as many of the other options he had considered. After CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin disputed that characterization, fellow commentator David Gregory dug in, saying, “Any Republican would have made this selection.”

    • The New York Times published a July 9 opinion piece on its website written by a liberal friend and former law professor of Kavanaugh’s, which Fox News exploited as evidence of widespread bipartisan support for the nominee.

    • A New York Times article described him as “often a moderating force.”

    • On CBS This Morning, Dan Senor, a Republican strategist and former colleague of Kavanaugh’s in the George W. Bush administration, said he’s “not some fire-brand right-winger” and argued that other Republicans also would have nominated him.

    • MSNBC political commentator Bret Stephens claimed that Kavanaugh is “within the broad mainstream of the American movement.”

    But data shows that Kavanaugh is “an uncommonly partisan judge” who has historically “tended to dissent more often along partisan lines than his peers,” according to research compiled by social scientists Elliott Ash and Daniel L. Chen. They also noted that Kavanaugh “justified his decisions with conservative doctrines far more than his colleagues” and that his right-leaning partisan decisions ramped up in the midst of presidential elections, “suggesting that he feels personally invested in national politics.” Additionally, Kavanaugh’s views on the environment, labor, LGBTQ discrimination, reproductive rights, gun safety, and immigration -- which are often out of step with those of the majority of Americans -- have won him the support of some of the most extreme factions, including extremist anti-LGBTQ groups and nativists like Ann Coulter and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

  • NRATV celebrates Brett Kavanaugh's radical view that bans on assault weapons are unconstitutional

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Immediately after Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, NRATV, the media arm of the National Rifle Association, cheered a dissent he wrote that argued bans on assault weapons are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. That view is far outside of mainstream legal thought.    

    On July 9, President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh, a judge on the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, as his nominee to fill the seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy and praised his “impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and ... proven commitment to equal justice under the law.” Trump picked his nominee from a shortlist of four right-wing federal appeals court judges, and a mounting number of Democratic senators have announced that they will oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation.   

    The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislation Action -- the NRA’s lobbying arm -- put out a press release on July 9 applauding Kavanaugh as an “outstanding choice” and highlighting his “impressive record that demonstrates his strong support for the Second Amendment.”  

    In a 2011 challenge to D.C.’s assault weapons ban, known as Heller II, Kavanaugh split from the rest of the D.C. Circuit Court and wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that “semi-automatic rifles, like semi-automatic handguns, have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens for self-defense in the home, hunting, and other lawful uses.” He went as far as to claim that “a ban on a class of arms …. is equivalent to a ban on a category of speech.”

    Based on this position, Kavanaugh would consider bans on the type of firearms most typically used during mass shootings -- including those used in recent massacres in Parkland, FL, Sutherland Springs, TX, and Las Vegas, NV -- unconstitutional. This view is entirely at odds with how federal courts have ruled on the issue. According to The Washington Post, “no federal appeals court has ever held that assault weapons are protected” by the Second Amendment.    

    NRATV host Cam Edwards immediately celebrated Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion, tweeting that it was “a better reasoned argument than the majority opinion.” During the July 10 edition of NRATV’s Stinchfield, host Grant Stinchfield suggested gun owners and NRA members “take this appointment as a reward for our hard work” and hailed Kavanaugh as a “strong dissenting voice in the court’s decision to unfortunately uphold the D.C. ban on so-called assault weapons.” NRATV host and spokesperson Dana Loesch said she was “very pleased” with Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion during her show Relentless later that same day.

    Edwards joined Stinchfield during the July 11 edition of Stinchfield to continue to praise Kavanaugh’s Heller II dissent:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): So, Cam, you’ve been in and around this for a long time. Most of us are looking at the [District of Columbia v.] Heller go-around number two. Dianne Feinstein mentioned it, this was when Kavanaugh dissented in the D.C. ban on so-called assault weapons. Have you looked through that ruling? What does it tell you about Kavanaugh?  

    CAM EDWARDS: I have looked through the ruling, Grant, and it’s a great decision. I mean, it’s a great opinion by Judge Kavanaugh. I wish that his opinion had carried the day because he actually looked at what the Supreme Court said in Heller and McDonald [v. Chicago]. And he said, look, it doesn’t matter if I like these gun control laws or I don’t like these gun control laws. What matters is that, under the precedent set by Heller and ratified by McDonald, so we know that these Second Amendment protections don’t just apply to infringement by the federal government, D.C.’s blanket ban on the most commonly sold rifle in America today doesn’t pass constitutional muster. And he made a very commonsense argument. He said, look, in the Supreme Court said in the first Heller case that you can’t ban semi-automatic handguns because those are in common use by millions of Americans for lawful purposes. Well, what’s the difference between a semi-automatic handgun and a semi-automatic long gun? They’re both in common use, both owned by millions of Americans for lawful purposes. If you can’t ban one, you can’t ban the other.                        

    Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion is a radical interpretation of the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court struck down D.C.’s handgun ban in a 5-4 decision. The 2008 ruling, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, explained that the Second Amendment right is “not unlimited” and that there is no “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Specifically, the Heller opinion said that “dangerous and unusual” weapons can be banned under the Second Amendment, which is the rationale federal courts have relied upon in upholding bans. In April, a federal district court judge (who was appointed by Ronald Reagan) rejected a Second Amendment challenge to Massachusetts’ assault weapons ban by positively citing Scalia’s language from Heller that explained cases where gun ownership can be limited.

    Kavanaugh, however, has signaled he would advance the NRA’s interpretation of the constitutionality of assault weapons bans, which defies mainstream legal thought.

  • Like clockwork, Sinclair has a must-run cheering on SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh

    Sinclair chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn: “He is easily the most confirmable candidate” 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    In a July 9 reality TV-like event, Trump formally nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Sinclair Broadcast Group’s chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn, who used to work in the Trump White House, was there in person to watch it unfold. And, as expected, he was ready to tell local news viewers how great this decision was.

    Less than a day later, Epshteyn published his latest commentary segment for Sinclair, in which you can practically hear him salivating over the Kavanaugh pick. In the 90-second segment, Epshteyn manages to throw just about every justification for supporting the Kavanaugh nomination at the wall, while attempting to paper over any of the myriad reasons lawmakers might oppose the nomination.

    Kavanaugh -- who, according to a recent analysis, would be nearly as far right ideologically as the most conservative current justice, Clarence Thomas -- doesn’t "seem affected by any political ideology,” Epshteyn argues. Epshteyn also suggests that Democratic senators in states like Indiana, North Dakota, and West Virginia will vote to confirm Kavanaugh if they want to "keep their chances to be reelected alive" come November. (Sinclair has local news stations in both Indiana and West Virginia.) 

    Here is the full transcript, along with video of the segment playing on Sinclair flagship station WBFF (Fox 45) in Baltimore, MD:

    BORIS EPSHTEYN: On Monday of this week, I had the honor of seeing President Trump nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for almost 12 years. Kavanaugh is immensely qualified for the high court. He served as a Supreme Court law clerk for Justice Kennedy after attending Yale University and Yale Law School. Kavanaugh also worked in the Bush White House.

    The more conservative Republicans may not be thrilled with the selection. However, it is important to remember that Kavanaugh is a constitutionalist and will uphold the rule of law.

    Moderate Republicans are big fans of Kavanaugh’s pick. He has described Roe v. Wade as binding precedent and his decisions don’t seem affected by any political ideology. That position on Roe and the fact that Kavanaugh has not really taken a stand on Obamacare’s individual mandate put a lot pressure on Democrat senators in conservative states, such as Sens. [Joe] Manchin from West Virginia, [Heidi] Heitkamp from North Dakota, and [Joe] Donnelly from Indiana, to vote for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    Here's the bottom line: Kavanaugh was the least controversial nominee from the president's list of potential justices. He is easily the most confirmable candidate for the open seat. I imagine that we will see most of the Democrats in Republican-leaning states who are up for reelection in November vote for Kavanaugh in the end so as to keep their chances to be reelected alive.

    This segment will now be forcibly aired, often spliced into local news coverage, on more than 100 Sinclair-owned or -operated news stations throughout the country as part of the media giant’s infamous “must-run” lineup. According to a Media Matters search of the iQ media database this morning, the segment has already aired on stations in at least 21 states.

    Are there Sinclair stations near you? Use Media Matters’ interactive map at FindSinclair.com to learn more.

  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups are uniting behind Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Family Research Council and Liberty Counsel are unifying behind President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

    Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the court on July 9, and soon after, extreme anti-LGBTQ groups started pouring in praise. As a result, LGBTQ advocates and groups have sounded the alarm. The highly influential Family Research Council (FRC), whose president, Tony Perkins, reportedly was “involved in discussions with the White House” on the nomination, promoted Kavanaugh “heavily” when he was initially nominated to the D.C. Circuit in 2005, and Perkins quickly responded to his Supreme Court nomination by pledging “to help move the grassroots to gain the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh.” He also praised Kavanaugh for previous rulings on “religious freedom and free speech” issues and for his “long and praiseworthy history of judging as an originalist.” FRC’s position is that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large” and “is by definition unnatural,” and the organization promotes the idea that “every effort should be made to assist such persons to overcome those attractions,” including by actively working against efforts to protect LGBTQ youth from the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

    Other extreme anti-LGBTQ organizations mirrored FRC’s messaging. Liberty Counsel praised Kavanaugh for a “pragmatic approach to judging” and compared his originalist judicial philosophy to that of notoriously anti-LGBTQ Justice Antonin Scalia. The group’s founder and chairman, Mat Staver, said, “I support the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” and called him “the right kind of judge we need on the bench.” Staver is known for using extreme rhetoric against LGBTQ people, including comparing them to pedophiles and saying that LGBTQ History Month is a “sexual assault on our children.”

    The National Organization for Marriage, a group that was instrumental in rolling back marriage equality in California in 2008, called Kavanaugh an “outstanding pick” who “will be strong on our issues” and a “constitutionalist.” The group noted that it “intends to do everything [it] can to secure the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh,” including launching a “Marriage Hero campaign” to organize anti-LGBTQ people at a grass-roots level in favor of his nomination. A July 10 blog post outlined several reasons NOM supports Kavanaugh.

    The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), which in 2013 led a smear campaign against a transgender teenager who was harassed and received death threats after her name was leaked to the public, issued a statement calling Kavanaugh “fair and faithful to the Constitution” and noting that he had ruled in favor of PJI’s clients in a case about prayer at the presidential inauguration. PJI’s statement, however, was less enthusiastic than that of other groups and asserted that there are “important unanswered questions about his jurisprudence” and characterized his record on abortion issues as “mixed.” The American Family Association (AFA) showed a similar hesitation and initially called on its supporters to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. The following day, however, AFA issued another statement walking back its opposition and lining up more closely with other extreme anti-LGBTQ groups:

    [A]fter hearing the concerns of some of our supporters, and after hearing the passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement, we are willing to let this process play out. We eagerly await the confirmation hearings when we hope to get clarification from Judge Kavanaugh on aspects related to our concerns.

    Though extreme group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) claims to not “take a position on the merits of Supreme Court nominees,” its Twitter account posted a New York Times op-ed by a liberal law professor making the case to confirm Kavanaugh. Several ADF staff and board members have also tweeted in support of the nomination or shared articles backing the choice. ADF is one of the most influential anti-LGBTQ groups in the country and is leading the fight against LGBTQ equality at nearly every level, including working to combat transgender student equality, codifying discrimination against the community via religious exemptions, and exporting its anti-LGBTQ agenda abroad.

    It’s clear that though a few anti-LGBTQ groups showed some initial hesitation toward Kavanaugh’s nomination, they have quickly coalesced behind him. These groups are highly coordinated and would not support a nominee who they did not think shared their extreme anti-LGBTQ values. AFA’s statement reversing its opposition to Kavanaugh due to “the passionate defense of Judge Kavanaugh by many we consider to be friends in the pro-life movement” is telling on its own; these groups know what they would be getting with a Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, and it won’t be good for LGBTQ people.

    Additional research by Rebecca Damante.

  • Fox & Friends papers over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s extremely conservative record

    Pete Hegseth: “The fact that they’re going to resist him is just a reflection of the fact that they hate Trump, so they hate anything he does”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News is already running defense for President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that opponents to D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination simply “hate Trump, so they hate anything he does.” But a closer look at Kavanaugh’s judicial record shows a nominee who is “more to the right than the man he would replace,” and a judge “whose lack of any direct paper trail on cases involving abortion rights will make it easier for pro-choice Republican senators ... to maintain the fiction that the future of Roe v. Wade is uncertain if not secure.” Right-wing propagandists have fantasized for years about getting a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade, a possibility they began discussing literally minutes after Kennedy announced his retirement.

    Moreover, beyond being described as “a forceful partisan,” Kavanaugh has taken the position that sitting presidents should be granted “a temporary deferral of civil suits and of criminal prosecutions and investigations,” a position a president who could potentially be served with a subpoena from federal investigators would be deeply invested in.

    From the July 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    ED HENRY (GUEST CO-HOST): It’s interesting, because The New York Times opinion page has, in their print edition, “Mr. Trump Courts the Right,” and it’s blasting everything about [Judge Brett] Kavanaugh, ignoring these credentials that even Alan Dershowitz, from the left a moment ago, said are many. But, if you go online, The New York Times opinion page, they don't put it in the paper today, has an op-ed from Akhil Amar, a professor at Yale Law School, who says he voted for Hillary Clinton and yet, basically says that, when the president said that this is a man with impeccable credentials, great intellect and all of that, “I agree.” So basically this professor, Akhil Amar at Yale Law School, says, I voted for Hillary Clinton. I supported every one of the Obama Supreme Court nominees, and this is a home run.

    PETE HEGSETH (GUEST CO-HOST): That’s the reality. Ultimately, as we’ve said, elections have consequences. If Hillary Clinton had won, we’d get more Sonia Sotomayors and Elena Kagans. But if you get President Trump, you get [Samuel] Alitos and [Antonin] Scalias.

    HENRY: Kagen, by the way, confirmed in the middle of a midterm election in 2010 for Barack Obama. She got through.

    HEGSETH: Of course, so like, the reality is is you get what you get when you vote for someone, and President Trump was the most transparent of anyone, saying, here’s the 25 I’m going to pick, he stayed faithful to that list, Brett Kavanaugh was one of them.

    HENRY: [Neil] Gorsuch was on the list, Kavanaugh was on the list.

    HEGSETH: And here you go, and the fact that they’re going to resist him is just a reflection of the fact that they hate Trump, so they hate anything he does.

  • The Supreme Court just enabled fake health clinics to lie to patients

    Right-wing media are calling it a "win" for the First Amendment

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT & SHARON KANN

    On June 26, the Supreme Court decided National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra in favor of a network of fake health clinics. Right-wing media and anti-abortion organizations framed the decision as a “win” for the First Amendment, but those outlets (and even some more mainstream ones) ignored that these clinics are harmful and actively deceive people seeking abortions.