Fox's “straight news” coverage of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death was largely recycled right-wing talking points

MacCallum interviews Geraldo Rivera

Fox News’ “straight news” coverage of the monumental life and death of former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on September 18 following her battle with pancreatic cancer, consisted mostly of right-wing talking points urging the president and Congress to pursue a swift nomination to fill her seat while downplaying the significance of the opening. 

Anchor Martha MacCallum, who Fox frequently puts forward as one of the leading lights of its 2020 election coverage, stands out as particularly biased. She defended the conservative legal philosophy of textualism and attacked jurists who do not adhere to it for for making “laws based on current events,” then repeated boilerplate Republican attacks on Democrats as anti-Catholic for opposing potential nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

  • Fox anchor Martha MacCallum’s coverage of Ginsburg’s death bordered on the silly and absurd. First she joked with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) about him being out of the running for the nomination. In an interview with Fox correspondent at-large Geraldo Rivera, she described jurists who are not “textualists” as “making laws based on current events,” essentially implying they do not possess a valid framework of jurisprudence. She later downplayed the role of the president in selecting a Supreme Court justice, saying, “All [the president] does is choose that individual” who will serve and “then it is up to the Senate” and “you don’t stop being president, you know, before the last month or day of your presidency, and it incumbent on the president to choose someone.” She then took up the Republican Party’s pre-buttal to the case against a potential nomination of Coney Barrett by suggesting that Democrats are anti-Catholic.
  • On America’s Newsroom, former independent counsel Ken Starr urged the president to act, saying he “could very well view this not just as a political act but as a presidential duty of the highest order.”
  • Fox co-anchor Melissa Francis made spurious claims about anti-Catholic sentiment in the case against Coney Barrett, saying, “For some reason, you're really allowed to go and vilify Christians.” Co-anchor Harris Faulkner initially refused to let the liberal panelist push back on Francis’ comments, which she then dismissed.
  • In an interview with Fox contributor Trey Gowdy, Fox anchor Dana Perino mentioned Republican hypocrisy on filling a Supreme Court vacancy close to an election only as something “the media [are] pointing out.” Perino later continued this framing in an interview with Fox host and media critic Howard Kurtz.
  • Every panelist except one on Special Report’s “all star” panel attacked Democrats for demanding a delay to confirming a new justice and advocated for a swift appointment. Julie Pace of The Associated Press was the exception; her comments did not editorialize either way. Fox politics editor Chris Stirewalt claimed, “Trump’s move is unquestionable here. He has to try to get it through now for political reasons” among others. Brit Hume, Fox senior political analyst, identified abortion rights as “the source of all this trouble we've been having. It has poisoned our politics for a generation and a half and that's why we are seeing what we are seeing now.”
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Citation From the September 21, 2020 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier