On September 26, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court.
In the following weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee began the hearing process that precedes the final senate vote. There were mixed reactions to Barrett’s nomination, with critics citing her religion and prior dissents, but large media outlets seem to project a disproportionate amount of negative press about Barrett compared to prior female nominees.
CNN has reported on all of the women placed on the highest court of the land in the last two decades, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to Sonia Sotomayor, to now, if the Senate votes to confirm, Amy Coney Barrett. Despite this, the difference in the type of coverage is staggering. The hearing is publicly available to watch on multiple platforms and was streamed live so anyone could see and hear the judge and her questioners. There was complete transparency on what the judge had to say to the committee and other witnesses, yet CNN said this in an article, “…that empty notepad also provided a metaphor for how Barrett came ready to give away nothing of her legal thinking.”. On the contrary, Barrett did answer the questions posed, she just didn’t answer them how CNN wanted. The answers she gave said more about her legal thinking than they claim.
Their portrayal of Barrett “dodging” questions, is simply not true, and they still choose to publicize it and spur more outrage over her nomination. The hypocrisy is revealed through how they covered Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to confirmation, versus how they covered Barrett’s.
On the topic of abortion, CNN reported, “Sotomayor called the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade a matter of settled law. While refusing to offer her personal view of the decision, she noted that the core holding in Roe was reaffirmed in the 1992 ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey.”
Barrett’s answer was remarkably similar to Sotomayor’s. Barrett responded to Blumenthal that, “What I said was that Roe held that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, that (the 1992) Casey reaffirmed that holding and indeed many cases after Casey have affirmed that holding again … So I think we might be talking past each other because the statements that I signed were statements of my personal beliefs.”
As an alleged textualist and originalist, this only confirms her legal thinking, that she will push her personal beliefs aside to apply the law. In a statement made by Barrett during her hearings, she stated, “It’s not the law of Amy,” she said, “it’s the law of the American people.”. This sentiment was much like what Sonia Sotomayor expressed when she stated in her hearing, “The task of a judge is not to make law, it is to apply the law.”, and was praised highly for in her hearings by CNN.
CNN highlighted Sotomayor’s commitment to “Fidelity to the law”, through her answers at the hearings in which some were highly similar to Barrett’s while writing scalding reports of the most recent nominee. An example of this reporting is obvious, “ She offered short, minimal answers and, unlike past nominees, avoided elaborating on some general legal principles.”