An October 17 New York Times article about a purported shift in strategy by the White House over the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court falsely suggested that it is only Democrats who have condemned criticism of Miers as “sexist” and who have criticized the White House for promoting Miers's religious background in an effort to obtain conservative support for the nomination. But condemnation and the criticism have, in fact, come both from both sides of the aisle.
The article, by David D. Kirkpatrick, quoted one Democrat, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), raising the issue of whether sexism is fueling criticism of Miers's qualifications:
Mrs. Feinstein also called some of the conservative criticism of Ms. Miers's qualifications “sexist,” adding, “I do not believe they would do that to a man.” Speaking on “Face the Nation” on CBS, Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said it was “nonsense” to dismiss Ms. Miers's critics as ''sexist and elitist."
But as the Times itself reported on October 12, Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman and an adviser to President Bush on the confirmation proceedings, first raised the charge of sexism in a meeting with conservatives soon after her nomination, saying that the attack on Miers's credentials “has a whiff of sexism and a whiff of elitism.” Moreover, first lady Laura Bush told NBC Today host Matt Lauer in an October 11 interview that criticism of Miers might be rooted in sexism.
The New York Times also noted in its October 12 article that the initial claims of sexism prompted the conservative group Concerned Women for America to email its supporters and deny that its criticism of her nomination was in any way sexist.
Kirkpatrick's article also quotes two Democrats, Feinstein and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE), criticizing the White House for playing up Miers's religious background in trying to sell her nomination to Bush's conservative base:
Other Democrats criticized President Bush and members of the administration for citing Ms. Miers's religion as a relevant part of her background. “I call that groping,” Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Delaware Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Sunday in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.” “It sounds like a man who is going down and decides to try to throw something to his supporters.”
On the CNN program “Late Edition,” Mrs. Feinstein said, “This is not government under Sharia,” the religious laws in some Islamic states. “We have a separation of church and state.”
Again, Democrats have not been alone in raising the issue. On October 10, Concerned Women for America (CWA) released a memorandum explaining the group's position on Miers. Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the organization, wrote:
White House representatives and other supporters of Miss Miers immediately announced that she is an evangelical Christian. There is continual emphasis on her faith and the advantage of having an evangelical Christian on the Supreme Court. We do not doubt Miss Miers' faith in Christ -- we share it.
Like CWA, most of those emphasizing Miss Miers' faith have resisted any attempt to impose a religious test on any person seeking public office. The Constitution forbids it. We find it patronizing and hypocritical to focus on her faith in order to gain support for Miss Miers.
On the October 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, also criticized the emphasis placed on Miers's religion by the White House:
MATTHEWS: Tony Perkins, do you think religion is an important factor in selecting any public official for any office in our Constitution.
PERKINS: Should not be a qualifying factor. There should be no religious test. We have argued against those on the Senate that try to disqualify people based on religion, and on the same hand I don't think it should be used to qualify someone. I think what we had in this situation is that because there was so little known about this nominee they were trying to describe who she was, what she stood for, and that was used. I think it was a mistake.