Media overlooked Dobson's "confidential" information on Miers


In reporting Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson's announced support for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, various media outlets -- including the Associated Press and The Washington Post -- overlooked Dobson's October 5 statement that his support for the nomination was due, at least in part, to "confidential" information that he had been "privy to." The reports omitted Dobson's comments despite mentioning concerns from many other prominent conservatives that they don't know enough about Miers's views on social issues such as abortion. Dobson's purported inside information would be significant, because both Republican and Democratic critics of Miers have noted that she has a thin track record, having never served as a judge, and have expressed concern that she will follow the lead of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and refuse during her nomination hearing to shed light on her views on such hot-button issues as abortion rights. Even President Bush has dodged questions about whether he has asked Miers about her position on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision protecting the right to abortion.

Some reporters apparently recognized the newsworthiness of Dobson's October 5 claim that the White House is providing some conservatives with information about Miers, which Dobson suggested was critical to his support, but not sharing it with senators or the public. On the October 5 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry reported that Dobson "has basically said he's been assured that she [Miers] is pro-life." The New York Times reported on October 6 that Dobson stated that "he had been given confidential information about Ms. Miers's views," prompting Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) to specifically ask Miers if she had authorized anyone to speak on her behalf. An October 6 report by USA Today that noted Leahy's concerns over Dobson's remarks also documented that Dobson made similar comments on Fox News on October 4:

Leahy, the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said he asked Miers on Wednesday about statements by one of her conservative backers, Focus on the Family President James Dobson, who is strongly opposed to abortion. "I do know things that I am not prepared to talk about here," Dobson said of Miers' conservative credentials Tuesday on Fox News.

Yet several media outlets that did mention Dobson's stated support for Miers's nomination failed to report his cryptic comments regarding "confidential" information. A report by the Associated Press noted only that on his radio program Dobson "said he believes Miers is against abortion, based on information including talks with her friends." Similarly, while noting that one of the "main complaints" by conservatives about the nomination is "Miers's lack of track record," a front-page Washington Post report omitted any mention of the information Dobson claimed he received. The Boston Globe also did not mention Dobson's purported inside information in its October 6 report, which included him among the "high-profile conservatives" who are "standing by Bush's decision" to nominate Miers.

Other newspapers mentioned White House efforts to woo Dobson but did not report Dobson's claim that he received "confidential" information about Miers. For example, The Christian Science Monitor reported that Dobson came to support Miers "[a]fter extensive lobbying by the White House" but cited only Dobson's claim that Bush has earned trust because "[t]o this point," he has been consistent with his pledge "to appoint judges who will interpret the law rather than create it." The New York Sun reported (subscription required) that White House senior adviser Karl Rove "convinced" Dobson to support Miers, but did not suggest how he had done so.

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments
Supreme Court Nominations, Miers Nomination
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