Fox News host Sean Hannity, Focus on the Family founder and chairman James C. Dobson, and Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins have been vocal in their criticism of Democrats' efforts to gather information on Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s background and philosophy. But now that media outlets have reported that Roberts provided pro bono assistance to gay-rights activists in the case of Romer v. Evans, Hannity, Dobson, and Perkins are calling for a thorough vetting of Roberts to ensure that he is sufficiently conservative.
Hannity has criticized Democrats' requests for documents Roberts wrote while serving as deputy solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush, and Hannity has derided inquiries on controversial topics like abortion as a “litmus test.” But on the August 5 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Hannity said he was “concerned” by Roberts's involvement in the Romer case, and, while he still supports the nomination, he “certainly want[s] to know more.” Hannity implored listeners to “look at whatever information becomes available” and stated that he wants to “hear good questions from Republicans, as well as [Sen.] Chuck Schumer [D-NY] and the Democrats.”
On the August 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Hannity criticized Democrats for demanding information on Roberts:
HANNITY: You know, I look at the Democrats in the case of John Roberts. They want documents handed over by him that no other Department of Justice person appointed to a court position has ever had to hand over.
They want questions answered that have never been answered before by a nominee. They want an abortion litmus test. And they want a religious litmus test. Are they preparing to Bork this man?
HANNITY: He seems like a very nice man. And what I've read about him, I like him a lot. He's smart, he's intelligent. He's got a great wit. He's sarcastic, which, of course, we love.
But as I watch the process unfold, and I'm seeing there's no way Chuck Schumer, [Sens.] Pat Leahy [D-VT], [Joseph R.] Biden [D-DE], or [Richard J.] Durbin [D-IL] are ever going to vote for this man. So why would the White House turn over any documents and capitulate in any way to a bunch of hard liberal extremists? Why bother?
HANNITY: Senator, 67 Department of Justice employees have gone on to judgeships, 67 of them, by the count that I've read. And none of them have had to turn over these documents before. Why is it even an issue? Why do the Democrats get to pull this off? Why is it always an issue with Judge [Robert H.] Bork, or [Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas, but not [justices] Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer? Why do we accept this double standard?
But on the August 5 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show, following the revelation of Roberts's work on Romer, Hannity encouraged Republicans to probe Roberts:
HANNITY: As a matter of fact, until this LA Times piece yesterday, I can't think of a single thing in my mind that made me in any way want to question in any way Roberts's conservative credentials. You know, when he sent his answers back to the Judiciary Committee, I got a lot of good feelings about that too, and I said so. But yet when we learn about this pro bono support for the wrong side of the Romer case, in which he's on the opposite side of [Supreme Court justices William H.] Rehnquist, [Antonin] Scalia, and Thomas, who voted for the opposite position that Roberts was helping, I'm just not going to ignore that. And I'm not going to come on here and spin you in any way. I'm gonna be honest, I'm concerned. Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices that currently comprise this court were appointed by Republicans. We have been burned by four of the seven, so we must look at whatever information becomes available, as always we encourage intellectual honesty about what it shows. ... You know, at this time, if you're asking if I support the nomination -- yes, but I certainly want to know more.
HANNITY: This is one of the most important and defining moments in our history. You cannot make a mistake here. And so we've got to be intellectually honest, and we've got to read over these memos. He's gotta answer questions. I wanna hear good questions from Republicans, as well as Chuck Schumer and the Democrats. We've been burned four out of seven times on the Supreme Court, and I don't want to be burned again.
In a July 27 FRC alert, Perkins disparaged Democrats' requests for documents, calling their attempts to gather information on Roberts a “fishing expedition.” But in an August 5 letter to FRC supporters, after expressing concern over Roberts's involvement with the Romer case, Perkins assured readers that he intends to verify that Roberts is a conservative, stating: "[A]s Ronald Reagan said, 'Trust, but verify.' We plan to do just that as we will be heavily involved in the confirmation hearings."
In an August 2 article Pete Winn, associate editor of Focus on the Family's CitizenLink website, wrote: “Senate liberals continue to make unreasonable demand for work product from President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court.” Winn also wrote that “Focus on the Family Action Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht, like other pro-family legal experts, said the Democrats are on a fishing expedition in preparation for the judge's Sept. 6 confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.” Winn quoted Hausknecht accusing Democrats of seeking information on Roberts in order to sink his nomination.
But on the August 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Dobson stated that “Republicans have an obligation” to find out what Roberts's “judicial philosophy is.” He continued: “We don't want to give him a pass here. I believe he's a good man. I believe the president has made the right choice. But the Republican senators need to vet him also, and I hope they will.”
From the August 8 edition of Hannity & Colmes:
DOBSON: I've been listening to it [Hannity's radio show], and you've got the right fix on it. You [Hannity] have been saying that, while the Democrats are going to try to find out what this man's judicial philosophy is, the Republicans have an obligation to do the same thing. We don't want to give him a pass here. I believe he's a good man. I believe the president has made the right choice. But the Republican senators need to vet him also, and I hope they will.