While pummeling Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for an alleged conflict of interest in a case before the Court, journalists have been largely ignoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s association with the radical feminist National Organization for Women Legal Defense Fund. The double standard may be explained by the fact that the media have made large financial contributions to the NOW group over the last several years.
Financial contributions to the NOW legal organization have come from Viacom, Lifetime Television, Conde Nast Publications, Newsweek, Seventeen Magazine, Time, Inc., the Times-Mirror Foundation, CBS Inc., the News Corporation Foundation, the Walt Disney Company, the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., A&E Television Networks, Reuters America Inc., and the New York Times Foundation.
The website of the NOW group features a photo of its president and Ginsburg at the “4th Annual Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecture Series on Women and the Law.” The series is sponsored by the NOW legal organization. The picture includes a link to an Associated Press story about the event, where Ginsburg criticized the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee, is a former counsel to the ACLU.
Rather than raise any alarm about this partisan political activity, tainted press clippings have been used in a campaign to have Scalia step aside from ruling on a matter involving Vice President Dick Cheney. Because Scalia and Cheney went on a duck-hunting trip together, the media have urged Scalia not to take part in a Supreme Court ruling on the Sierra Club’s lawsuit to gain access to records of an energy task force run by the vice-president.
A conservative with no backbone might have capitulated to the pressure. But Scalia fired back, lambasting “so-called investigative journalists” and accusing reporters of getting the facts wrong. He says the trip, which involved no discussion of the case, should not disqualify him from participating in the ruling. He points out in a memorandum responding to the criticism that the main argument in the Sierra Club motion urging his removal “consists almost entirely of references to, and quotations from, newspaper editorials.” The Sierra Club claimed, for example, that 8 of the 10 newspapers with the largest circulation in the United States called on Scalia to step aside.
Scalia commented, ‘The implications of this argument are staggering. I must recuse [myself from the case] because a significant portion of the press, which is deemed to be the American public, demands it. The motion attaches as exhibits the press editorials on which it relies. Many of them do not even have the facts right.”
To remove himself from the case, Scalia said, would be “to encourage so-called investigative journalists to suggest improprieties, and demand recusals, for other inappropriate (and increasingly silly) reasons.” He added, “While the political branches can perhaps survive the constant baseless allegations of impropriety that have become the staple of Washington reportage, this Court cannot.”
Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, told Family News in Focus radio that while there’s no evidence that the Scalia-Cheney duck hunt compromised the case before the Court, Ginsburg’s association with the NOW organization is clearly inappropriate. Thirteen members of the House have written Ginsburg, asking her to withdraw from all cases involving abortion because of her affiliation with the group. In a related matter, two members of Congress have written to their colleagues calling attention to how some members of the Court, such as Ginsburg, have decided to base their rulings on what foreign courts say. “With growing frequency,” say Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Tom Feeney, “the Supreme Court has relied upon decisions of foreign judicial tribunals when deciding American constitutional and statutory cases.”
The NOW Legal Defense and Education Annual Report for 2003 proves their point. A section titled, “Tools for Change: Exploring International Law,” urges the justices to use global treaties to decide U.S. cases. It notes that Ginsburg’s pro-affirmative action decision, which was joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, “referenced international treaties to show that the Court’s decision was consistent with the international understanding of affirmative action as a temporary remedy.”
Here we have a case of a sitting Supreme Court Justice associating with a partisan political group, bashing the Bush administration, and ignoring the U.S. Constitution while citing foreign courts and rulings in making her decisions. Yet the media go after Scalia for going duck-hunting with the vice-president.
It’s difficult to decide who’s more biased?Ginsburg or the media. The media have clearly compromised themselves by contributing to Ginbsurg’s pet project. But that’s a story they will keep carefully under wraps.