Accuracy in Media

In a case of sensational but factually inaccurate reporting, WorldNetDaily (WND) is alleging that Bush Supreme Court pick Harriet Miers “is on record as supporting the establishment of the International Criminal Court” and “homosexual adoptions” and other controversial positions. But the documents being cited as proof of the claim have been distorted by WND. One document is merely a listing of issues that were supposed to come before a meeting of the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association in 1998. There is no evidence that Miers personally endorsed them.

Columnist Robert Novak has also been caught promoting the misinformation. In a column appearing today in the Chicago Sun-Times, he writes that Miers was “chairwoman of a panel that recommended legalization of gay adoption and establishment of an International Criminal Court.” He added, “That will not sit well with the Republican base.” In fact, the evidence shows that Miers was the chair of a panel that merely passed along recommendations from various ABA entities for consideration by the ABA. There’s no evidence that she put her personal stamp of approval on those controversial positions.

Ironically, the liberal Boston Globe got the story correct and put it into context. The paper reports today that “In 1998, while heading the ABA’s rules and calendar committee, she submitted policy views for discussion by the group’s membership, including two that are hardly conservative: endorsing an International Criminal Court, and lifting bans on adoptions by homosexuals. But Gail Alexander-Wise, director of ABA media relations, emphasized that Miers was only carrying out an administrative duty and did not necessarily endorse those positions just because she submitted them for discussion.”

The Globe is to be congratulated for going to the ABA for clarification and comment. That was the right thing to do. It is unfair to personally tie Miers, as chair of the ABA committee, to the views and policy positions that she was passing forward for consideration by the ABA membership.

The media distortions of the Miers record, coming so quickly after she was nominated, are extremely troubling. Accuracy in Media is urging the conservative media, who could play a constructive role in analyzing her background, to conduct their research in a careful and constructive way and not jump to unwarranted conclusions about her personal views on public policy issues.

AIM has also said that it is perfectly appropriate for the media to analyze the Miers selection in view of the Bush campaign promise to appoint judges in the tradition of conservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

As the New York Times reports today, “? there is no clear public evidence that she meets another test that Mr. Bush long ago suggested he would apply to his nominees: that they fit the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who have aggressively sought to move the court rightward, becoming heroes to many conservatives in the process.”

But the sensational WND story, which was highlighted on a website that is very popular among conservatives, went beyond analyzing the nomination in light of the Bush promise. The story claimed to have uncovered her positions on several controversial issues. The subheadline said, “Bush pick supported International Criminal Court, homosexual adoptions, women in combat, tax hike.”

WorldNetDaily insisted that Miers endorsed the recommendations on the International Criminal Court and homosexual adoptions that she was merely passing along to ABA members. As its evidence for the charge, it claimed that “?during Miers long affiliation with the American Bar Association, she submitted a 1999 report to the ABA’s house of delegates that included recommendations to develop and establish an International Criminal Court and the enactment of laws and public policy providing that the sexual orientation of adults be no bar to adoption of children.”

It’s true that Miers submitted the report. But that doesn’t mean she agreed with those recommendations. It was her job to submit those reports to the ABA membership. There’s no evidence in the documents that Miers was advising the ABA membership to adopt any of the policy recommendations. Instead, it is clear that she was advising that they consider and study them, in order to come to their own conclusions.

WorldNetDaily added, “Along with the proposed agenda was a memo, dated Oct. 28, 1998, that explained the document.” It said, “The Committee urges all Delegates to review this list for items of interest to their constituencies, and to act as the catalyst for further contact and action so that each entity will have the earliest opportunity for consideration and input.”

WND said, “The memo is signed by Miers as chairwoman of the Select Committee of the House.”

But this memo doesn’t prove what WND implies. This memo, which is a separate document, is a cover letter for the report. Miers was, in fact, one of 12 officials who signed and submitted the report.

It may be the case that Miers endorsed or even voted for these controversial positions as a member of the ABA. There is no evidence of that at this point. But the documents being cited by WND, and which apparently provided the basis for Novak’s charge, do not prove it.

Accuracy in Media believes that the conservative media have every right―even an obligation―to subject Miers’ record to scrutiny. But that effort must be undertaken with careful consideration and attention to the actual facts of the case.

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