Accuracy in Media

One man’s whistleblower is another man’s thief. Just ask Manuel Miranda, who recently resigned from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s staff over some memos leaked to the press. Miranda is the central figure in an expanding Capitol Hill scandal over the contents of Senate Democrats’ computer files on judicial nominations. Miranda says the memos depict the use of campaign funds and promises of election support to influence Democrat votes on President Bush’s judicial nominations. But through their friends in the liberal media, Senate Democrats have been able to portray this as just another leak investigation.

The controversy erupted last February when columnist Robert Novak accused Senate Democrats of plotting to derail any appellate court nomination that does not conform to their standards. Last fall, several memos outlining this conspiracy, written by aides to Senators Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy, were leaked to the Wall Street Journal. Durbin immediately called for a full investigation and the committee recently got a closed-door briefing on the inquiry. Afterwards, Kennedy compared the acquisition of the memos to Watergate saying, “A break-in is a break-in.” The Ranking Democratic Member on the committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, said, “We’ve had things stolen from us, our computers broken into?”

In its coverage of the hearing, the mainstream media made no mention of the content of the memos. The Washington Post’s Helen Dewar reported only that the memos involved “strategy for blocking some of President Bush’s most conservative appeals court nominees.” The New York Times’ Neil Lewis wrote only that it was a Republican claim that the memos showed collaboration between Senate Democrats and “outside liberal groups” on opposition to judicial nominations.

The liberal media have been particularly careful to omit some of the more embarrassing contents of the memos. One memo shows that some appointees, like Miguel Estrada, were blocked on grounds that he is a “Latino.” Another memo depicted Kennedy agreeing to hold up another Bush appellate court nominee until the University of Michigan affirmative action case was decided. That request came from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. That’s the real scandal.

Ironically, the Democrats’ hero is the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch. Hatch acceded to the Democrats’ call for a full investigation into how the memos were obtained, but deflected calls to examine the memos for ethical violations. Long-time conservative activist Paul Weyrich said this was typical Orrin Hatch behavior. “He is more interested in winning the love and plaudits of his Democratic colleagues than he is in providing justice for the people who have served him and his party.”

But the Post and the Times report broad support for Hatch from other Republican members of the committee. Republican Senator Jon Kyl told the committee, “We are part of the problem because an atmosphere of politics has crept into our deliberations, especially about judges.” Miranda was forced to resign and another staffer was fired; conservatives think they were sold down the river.

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