TV news is ignoring far-right White House lawyer Steven Menashi’s judicial nomination

Steven Menashi

Citation Ceci Freed / Media Matters

Update (10/31/19): On October 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed the vote on Steven Menashi’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

All major broadcast and cable TV news networks aside from MSNBC have failed to cover President Donald Trump’s far-right judicial nominee Steven Menashi since his confirmation hearing on September 11. Menashi, a special assistant and associate counsel to the president who previously worked as acting general counsel at the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos, has published inflammatory comments about women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on October 31 to determine whether his nomination for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit will be considered by the full Senate.  

During his September 11 confirmation hearing, Menashi “refused to answer most questions related to his work at the White House, specifically when asked if he had a role in the administration’s policy of separating migrant parents and children at the border and limiting the number of refugees allowed in the country.” Members on both sides of the aisle expressed frustration with his refusal to be forthcoming about his past work. Menashi and his backers in the White House have continued to stonewall in the wake of his hearing, notably against inquiries about whether he was involved in White House efforts to hide the explosive transcript of a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. 

After Menashi’s hearing, broadcast news outlets CBS, ABC, and NBC did not have a single mention of him in their coverage. MSNBC was the only major cable network to cover him, reporting on the hearing for around 10 minutes and 30 seconds across three shows. But Fox News and CNN apparently did not find Menashi’s extreme views and stonewalling during his hearing notable enough to cover.    

According to HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery, who has written extensively about the nomination, the Trump-Pence White House and Senate Republicans are attempting to push through Menashi’s nomination at “an incredibly fast turn-around,” noting that “it’s no mistake that the Republican-led [Senate Judiciary] committee kept its agenda empty until the last minute” when scheduling his September 11 hearing. 

Bendery noted that the expedited process “helped to stave off prolonged protests by progressive groups,” which may have also contributed to the scant media coverage prior to the nomination. 

Major advocacy organizations have continued to oppose Menashi’s confirmation. On October 22, The NAACP sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee noting that he “has a vile, offensive record of attacking communities of color and opposing civil rights protections.” Leading LGBTQ organizations have also asserted that he “has clearly and consistently expressed his animosity towards the LGBT people and people living with HIV through his personal writings.” He has made comments skeptical of open LGBTQ service in the military and criticized the Human Rights Campaign’s advocacy for hate crime legislation, among other positions. Additionally, CNN’s investigative journalism project KFILE reported on his other inflammatory writings regarding race and advocacy around sexual assault prevention:

Steven Menashi, a Stanford-trained lawyer who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, wrote dozens of editorials and blog posts in the late 1990s and early 2000s for a number of college and professional publications decrying “leftist multiculturalism” and “PC orthodoxy.” He complained about “gynocentrists,” wrote that the Human Rights Campaign “incessantly exploited the slaying of Matthew Shepard for both financial and political benefit” and argued that a Dartmouth fraternity that held a “ghetto party” wasn't being racist.

He attacked academic multiculturalism as “thoroughly bankrupt” and, in 2002, defended then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi amid a worldwide controversy over comments asserting the superiority of Western civilization over Islamic culture -- for which Berlusconi himself ultimately apologized.
 

The Trump administration is dramatically reshaping the judiciary, installing “a historic number of federal appeals court judges for this point of a presidency,” and it has selected unusually partisan nominees. Those judges are predominantly white and male and include several who are tied to extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom. Additionally, several nominees have been withdrawn for being unqualified or extreme. 

The effects of the Trump administration judiciary will be felt long after the end of his presidency, so it’s time that media prioritized covering the extreme background of many of Trump’s nominees before they start their lifetime appointments.

Methodology

Media Matters searched Nexis and SnapStream transcripts for cable and broadcast TV coverage appearing in original programming on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, and NBC between September 11 and noon on October 30 for mentions of the words “Menashi” or “Second Circuit.”