Right-wing media baselessly paint SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson as radical
Conservative figures are using decades-old methods commonly used to discredit women of color as biased
In response to President Joe Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, conservative media outlets have begun to smear the D.C. Circuit Court judge by baselessly describing her as a radical, unqualified nominee.
Jackson graduated from Harvard College and then attended Harvard Law School, where she was the supervising editor of the law review. Jackson also clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, whom she was nominated to replace. She spent several years as a public defender, and served as vice chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2010-2014. Jackson has been a federal judge since 2013, when she began working as a trial judge in D.C. In 2021, Biden nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, one of the most powerful courts in the nation. She was confirmed by a vote of 53-44, garnering the votes of three Republicans.
Because of the types of cases the circuit courts hear, Jackson’s most influential decisions thus far have dealt with executive power and conflicting statutes, rather than topics like abortion or civil rights. Though right-wing media are trying to paint Jackson as the most radical choice possible for the Supreme Court, her judicial record and philosophy has been described as “workmanlike” and “well within the mainstream” by conservative legal scholars and judges. Based on Jackson’s moderate background, political analysts consider her nomination “safe” and “predictable” and note that her replacement of another liberal judge is “unlikely to reshape the Supreme Court.”
But Jackson’s long list of accomplishments and widespread acclaim hasn’t deterred some conservative media from following through on what seems to have been the plan all along — attacking the nominee for perceived bias based on her identity. Even before Jackson was named, right-wing media had launched a preemptive attack on the yet-unknown nominee, simply because Biden said she would be a Black woman.
Right-wing figures are employing tactics historically used to undermine people of color and women based on the assumption that their identity renders them inherently biased and unfit to hear cases concerning gender discrimination or civil rights. Meanwhile, white men’s potential biases are much less frequently discussed. The NAACP’s Sherrilyn Ifill pointed out that similar methods were previously used by conservatives to discredit Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice, and Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge. The qualifications and aptitude of people of color are often called into question no matter how accomplished they are.
By failing to recognize Jackson’s aptitude for the Supreme Court and the historical significance of her nomination, conservatives are repeating the past to echo the same complaints about Democrats’ prior SCOTUS picks. Here is a sampling of the unfounded smear campaign initiated by right-wing media against the highly qualified Judge Jackson:
- On his radio show, Sean Hannity implied that Jackson could not be a fair jurist, claiming that with her nomination, “the radical left will get a activist jurist.”
- Fox host Tucker Carlson attacked Jackson’s knowledge and competence, falsely claiming she “isn’t much of a jurist. She’s not simply ignorant of the law, she is a political activist.” Following the rant, guest Harmeet Dhillon said that the Supreme Court nomination process is “beholden, like Joe Biden is, to a far left agenda, with dark money controlling what the president does.”
- Right-wing talk radio and Fox News host Mark Levin smeared Jackson as a “crazed, radical left-wing hack,” claiming that Biden “picked the most radical person he could.”
- One America News Network host Stephanie Hamill claimed Democrats want Republicans to “embrace an unqualified leftist without any question” and said Jackson’s appointment was intended to “woke-ify” the Supreme Court. Her guest, George Braun, a staff member for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, made a racist dig at Jackson, calling her an “affirmative action hire.” Braun also claimed Jackson is unqualified and said her appointment would take the court “far to the left.”
- In an article for The Federalist, staff writer Jordan Boyd argued that GOP senators must “absolutely fight to keep Biden’s radical nominee off the Supreme Court,” saying that Jackson’s “politically and legally extremist track record” should preempt her from receiving any Republican confirmation votes.
- Fox host Laura Ingraham called Jackson’s nomination “a major threat to your liberties,” and claimed that senators who veto against her confirmation are “saving the country that we love.”
- Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-choice group, claimed that Jackson is “backed by many of America’s most radical pro-abortion groups.” It also claimed that by nominating her, “Joe Biden fulfilled his promise to only appoint justices who support the Roe v. Wade regime of abortion on demand up to birth.”
- The Heritage Foundation published a press release baselessly claiming that Jackson is a “radical judge” who is “not qualified” for the Supreme Court. The statement also argued that by nominating her, Biden was “appeasing left-wing special interest groups and fulfilling a campaign promise of using race and sex to determine his nominee.”