During the week of the Senate’s confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, prime-time shows on CNN and Fox News hosted seven times as many Gorsuch supporters as opponents, contributing to media’s pattern of normalizing the very conservative nominee.
After Hearings, Gorsuch Likely To Be Confirmed By Senate
NY Times: Gorsuch “Sought To Assure The Senate And The Nation ... That He Would Be A Fair-Minded And Independent Justice” In Confirmation Hearings. In summarizing the confirmation hearings for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, The New York Times called him “by turns expansive and evasive” and said that his style was “folksy, earnest, learned and emphatic,” adding that he “spoke forcefully about his devotion to the rule of law.” The Times wrote that Gorsuch “sought to assure the Senate and the nation ... that he would be a fair-minded and independent justice.” From the March 21 article:
Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, sought to assure the Senate and the nation on Tuesday that he would be a fair-minded and independent justice.
By turns expansive and evasive, Judge Gorsuch discussed legal doctrines at length, but refused to take positions on specific issues. He asserted, as have previous Supreme Court nominees, that it would be unfair to future litigants for him to announce his views on issues that could come before the court.
Judge Gorsuch’s style was folksy, earnest, learned and emphatic, and he easily dodged questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was not inclined to answer. But he spoke forcefully about his devotion to the rule of law. [The New York Times, 3/21/17]
NPR: “One Way Or Another, The U.S. Senate Will Vote To Confirm” Gorsuch To The Supreme Court. NPR’s Nina Totenberg wrote following Gorsuch's confirmation hearings that “it does look as though one way or another, the U.S. Senate will vote to confirm the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.” From the NPR report:
Political predictions are a dangerous business, especially this year. But it does look as though one way or another, the U.S. Senate will vote to confirm the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ultimately, President Trump will get his Gorsuch nominee through the Senate, but only because his party has a majority there. [NPR, 3/25/17]
During The Week Of The Hearings, Fox News And CNN Hosted Seven Times As Many Gorsuch Supporters As Opponents
Cable News Hosted More Than Three Times As Many Gorsuch Supporters As Opponents. A Media Matters analysis found that from March 20 to 24, during and immediately after the Senate hearings on Gorsuch’s nomination, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC hosted 26 guests who were outspoken in their support of Gorsuch. The same networks only hosted eight people opposed to confirming Gorsuch.
Fox And CNN Hosted Gorsuch Supporters Seven Times More Often Than Opponents. Fox and CNN both hosted seven times as many Gorsuch supporters as opponents from March 20 to 24. Fox hosted 14 supporters and two opponents, while CNN hosted seven supporters and one opponent.
MSNBC Was The Only Truly Balanced Network On Gorsuch. Of the three networks, MSNBC was the only one that brought on an even number of Gorsuch supporters and opponents, hosting five of each.
Media Figures Helped Mainstream Gorsuch, Despite His Hard-Right Views
Many Media Figures Claimed Gorsuch Was “A Relatively Mainstream Choice” For The Supreme Court. After Trump nominated Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court, media figures repeatedly claimed that Gorsuch was “a relatively mainstream choice.” For instance, Newsweek political editor Matthew Cooper claimed that Gorsuch “is a mainstream conservative,” while CNN’s David Chalian suggested that it would be “hard” to call Gorsuch “outside of the mainstream of judges.” [Media Matters, 2/2/17]
NY Times: Gorsuch Would Make The Court More Conservative. An analysis of Gorsuch's record found him to be even more conservative than the late Justice Antonin Scalia, according to The New York Times. The Times wrote that the study’s authors said Gorsuch “would be a reliable conservative, ‘voting to limit gay rights, uphold restrictions on abortion and invalidate affirmative action programs.’” [The New York Times, 1/31/17]
Media Matters searched Nexis for “Gorsuch” or “Supreme Court” for significant discussions of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC in prime-time (5 p.m.-11 p.m.) coverage during the week of his Senate confirmation hearings, March 20-24. Two separate coders independently assessed whether speakers made statements in favor of confirming Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, in opposition to confirming him, or neither.
Katherine Hess contributed research to this study. Sarah Wasko contributed graphics to this study.