USA Today excluded caveats in Collins's praise for Roberts's description of Roe as “settled law”

By cropping a quote by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that addressed Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts's description of Roe v. Wade as “settled law” during his 2003 appellate court confirmation hearing, USA Today erroneously suggested that Collins said Roberts has already affirmed his commitment to upholding Roe if confirmed. In fact, Collins explicitly noted that the “Supreme Court has the ability overturn its precedents,” meaning that Roberts's characterization of Roe as “settled law” in the context of his nomination to an appellate court does not indicate whether he would vote to uphold the landmark abortion decision if confirmed to the high court. Rather, Collins indicated her hope that because Roberts had pledged to respect precedent as an appellate judge, he would continue to accept Roe as a Supreme Court justice even though he may then have the power to overturn it.

In a July 22 article titled “Roberts works to win over Democratic critics,” USA Today reported:

Another Republican who favors abortion rights, Susan Collins of Maine, said she's “very heartened” by Roberts' testimony at his [2003 appellate court] Judiciary Committee hearing that legal abortion is “settled law.”

But USA Today cropped Collins's remarks, excluding a portion where she noted that Roberts's description of Roe as “settled law” reflected his recognized duty to accept binding precedent as a circuit court judge, whereas “obviously, the Supreme Court has the ability to overturn its precedents.”

Collins's comments on CNN's Inside Politics on July 21:

COLLINS: He also said that there was nothing in his personal beliefs that would prevent him from fully and faithfully applying that decision. Now, obviously the Supreme Court has the ability to overturn its precedents, but I'm looking for a justice who will respect precedents. The Supreme Court does not ignore precedents, and I am very heartened by what Judge Roberts said.

As Media Matters for America has noted (here and here), members of the media have repeatedly misconstrued the relevance of Roberts's past description of Roe as “settled law.”