Accuracy in Media


The mainstream media highlighted Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s “scathing” dissent on a recent Supreme Court case on immigration. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which aimed to withhold green cards from immigrants who rely on government welfare programs.

In her dissent, Sotomayor claimed that the conservative-leaning justices are clear and partisan bias in favor of the Trump administration. She said, “Today’s decision follows a now-familiar pattern. The Government seeks emergency relief from this Court, asking it to grant a stay where two lower courts have not. The Government insists—even though review in a court of appeals is imminent—that it will suffer irreparable harm if this Court does not grant a stay. And the Court yields.”

Media outlets covered her dissent and failed to acknowledge how unusual it is for a sitting Supreme Court justice to accuse his or her colleagues of blatant partisanship. CNN headlined her dissent, “Sotomayor issues scathing dissent in Supreme Court order that could reshape legal immigration.” The New York Times wrote, “In Case on Wealth Test for Green Cards, a Scathing Sotomayor Dissent.” The Hill’s headline read, “Sotomayor accuses Supreme Court of bias in favor of Trump administration.”

Dissenting opinions are common for Supreme Court justices, but accusations or allegations of blatant partisan bias are not typical in dissenting opinions. Yet the mainstream media ignored the historical context and only covered Sotomayor’s dissent. The media also failed to rebut Sotomayor’s partisanship allegation or provide context, such as how the Supreme Court nomination battles tend to be partisan in recent years.

The media’s omission of historical contextual information was unfair because it portrayed the conservative-leaning justices of the Supreme Court as partisans, while the liberal-leaning justices received no such label or treatment in the media.

The court case at the center of Sotomayor’s dissent was Wolf v. Cook County, Ill., which case was between Acting Secretary for Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Cook County, Illinois. Liberal-leaning justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan sided with Sotomayor against the Trump administration, while Chief Justice Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh were in the majority.




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