Florida Over U.S. Supremes; 4 to 3 Not "Sharply Divided"?; Florida Justices Not Called Liberal But U.S. Supremes Labeled Conservative
1) All four reporters on Inside
Washington and Capital Gang favored the Florida over the U.S. Supreme Court.
Evan Thomas: "I think that the Florida Supreme Court did do the right
thing here." Al Hunt impugned the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming "the
fix is in" and the stay order is "a disingenuous cover for the real
agenda which is desperately to prevent any count."
2) To CBS News, a 4 to 3 decision by the Florida Supreme Court
was just a 4 to 3 decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court's 5 to 4 stay order
reflected "a sharply divided Supreme Court" which "jumped into
the battle for the White House."
3) Friday night the networks didn't apply a liberal label to
the Florida justices, but on Saturday they made sure viewers realized
"conservatives" were behind the stay order. CBS tagged Antonin
Scalia as "the most conservative" justices. ABC's Stephanopoulos
predicted Democrats will blame a loss on how "we had appointees of Nixon,
Reagan and Bush handing the election to Bush's son."
split decision amongst reporters on the weekend talk shows: They all favored
the Florida Supreme Court ordering of statewide hand counts and were upset by
the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to stay the order.
"There is something unseemly about the desire not
to have a statewide recount," argued NPR's Nina Totenberg on Inside
Washington while on the same show Newsweek's Evan Thomas called the U.S.
Supreme Court order "arbitrary" and conceded: "I think that the
Florida Supreme Court did do the right thing here." Time's Margaret
Carlson offered similar approval on CNN's Capital Gang as she insisted:
"What the Florida Supreme Court did was to cure the mistakes" the
U.S. Supreme Court said it made but now that court has prevented us from
learning who really won. "For the Supreme Court....to argue that a mere
count or recount would do irreparable harm," Al Hunt contended, is
"a disingenuous cover for the real agenda which is desperately to prevent
The McLaughlin Group was taped before the Saturday
afternoon stay order from the U.S. Supreme Court, but both CNN's special
hour-long Capital Gang at 7pm ET and the syndicated Inside Washington run at
the same time on Washington, DC's WUSA-TV, addressed the late breaking
Here are quotes from the four reporters on the two
December 9 shows:
-- Inside Washington:
The election will be tainted if there's no statewide
recount, maintained NPR and ABC News reporter Nina Totenberg: "We all
agree that no matter what the counting has not been and would not be perfect.
There is something unseemly about the desire not to have a statewide recount.
That was true a month ago when Gore made, I thought, a reasonable offer to
have everything recounted statewide and it's probably true now. And I think
it will taint whoever ends up as President if there is not something on the
order of a statewide recount."
Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, took
on the reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court: "It seems to me arbitrarily,
talk about arbitrary, just stopping the count when you have a lot of uncounted
and undercounted votes is pretty darn arbitrary too. So we're struggling for
the least bad solution here and it seems the least bad solution is I think
what would have been a good faith effort, not uniform, but good faith effort
to count votes in many, if not all, of these counties."
He added later: "I think that the Florida Supreme
Court did do the right thing here, but the four justices who voted to have the
recounts are screaming liberals..."
If he thinks "screaming liberals" did
"the right thing," what does that make him?
-- CNN's Capital Gang:
Al Hunt, Executive Washington Editor of the Wall Street
Journal, denounced the stay order: "If the High Court had decided to
review the deeply divided Florida Supreme Court decision after the recount was
finished that would be understandable. Indeed, it would be necessary. But for
the Supreme Court, the five person majority, to argue that a mere count or
recount would do irreparable harm is simply a cover, if you will, a
disingenuous cover for the real agenda which is desperately to prevent any
Asked who or what will decide who wins, Hunt impugned
the U.S. Supreme Court: "The fix is in. The Supreme Court is going to go
Time reporter and columnist Margaret Carlson seemed
heartbroken that the counting was stopped: "What the Florida Supreme
Court did was to cure the mistakes, the mistake that the United States Supreme
Court said it made in the decision it issued yesterday. And it referred to
Section 168, which is the contest phase, and it gave the standard for recounts
which is, 'the right to a correct count of the ballots in an election is a
substantial right, in every case where there has been a failure to make a
proper count, call, tally or return of the votes as required by law.' You
don't need broken machines. All you need is a failure to count some votes
and that's where we are here. And what the Supreme Court seemed to say, and
you know people were watching this, and they saw that, hey you could count
these votes in a day. It looked fairly orderly, they were going to get done.
It was judges, it was on videotape -- was that they stopped the count right in
front of us. Anything not to know who won."
To CBS News,
a 4 to 3 decision by the Florida Supreme Court was just a 4 to 3 decision, but
the U.S. Supreme Court's 5 to 4 stay order vote reflected "a sharply
divided Supreme Court." Compare and contrast the openings of the Friday
and Saturday editions of the CBS Evening News:
Anchor Dan Rather, Friday night: "Good evening. The
battle took a dramatic and historic turn today and the country could be headed
into new and uncertain constitutional debate. Florida's highest court has
ruled for Vice President Gore's appeal, requiring additional votes be
counted. Here's the latest: Ruling 4 to 3, the Florida Supreme Court
significantly revived Gore's chances of overtaking Texas Governor
Anchor Thalia Assuras, Saturday night: "Good
evening. The United States Supreme Court jumped into the battle for the White
House today, ordering an abrupt halt to a hand recounting of thousands of
ballots in Florida. Here's the latest: Granting George W. Bush's request,
a sharply divided Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to stay the hand count and
scheduled oral arguments for Monday..."
Notice how the Florida Supreme Court setting into motion
a chaotic rushed counting process did not constitute jumping into the election
but the U.S. Supreme Court halting the counting meant they had "jumped
into the battle for the White House." How about this for news copy that
I'd write: "The U.S. Supreme Court today restored order and adherence
to the law in the battle for the White House"?
ideology suddenly became an issue for the networks on Saturday night when the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush's request to stay the Florida
Supreme Court's activist decision ordering a new selective hand count of
so-called "under-votes." As detailed in the December 9 CyberAlert,
ABC, CBS and NBC on Friday night didn't once mention the ideology of the
four justices in the majority whom even Newsweek's Evan Thomas, as quoted in
item #1 above, described as "screaming liberals."
But on Saturday night network reporters made sure
viewers were aware of the "conservative/liberal split" on the U.S.
Supreme Court and realized "conservatives" were behind the stay
order. CBS's Jim Stewart tagged Antonin Scalia as "the most
conservative of all justices." Friday night ABC skipped how all of the
Florida justices were appointed by Democratic Governors, but on Saturday night
George Stephanopoulos anticipated that if Bush wins before the U.S. Supreme
Court, "you can bet you're going to hear Democrats saying, 'Listen,
we had appointees of Nixon, Reagan and Bush handing the election to Bush's
Here are the details from Saturday night, December 9:
-- CBS Evening News. Jim Stewart provided this
description of the justices on each side as he introduced brief quotes from
comments issued separately by Justices Scalia and Stevens:
"It was a classic
5-4 conservative/liberal split. Voting to stop the count were Chief Justice
Rehnquist and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and O'Connor, all Republican
appointees. In dissent were Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, the two Democratic
appointees, joined by Stevens and Souter, two moderate to liberal Republicans.
But it was Scalia, the most conservative of all justices, who appeared to
signal that Gore's day may be done."
-- NBC Nightly News. Pete Williams asserted: "The
vote, 5 to 4 to stop the counting. The court also announces it will hear an
appeal of the Florida court's decision. The court's conservative justices
-- Rehnquist, O'Connor, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas -- voting to stop the
counting with the four liberals -- Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer --
-- ABC's World News Tonight, back from its three month
break for college football. Jackie Judd avoided applying ideological tags when
she listed which justices were on each side, but she highlighted how
"critics of the decision claim the 5-4 split reveals political bias
against Gore." Viewers then heard this charge from Professor David Cole
of the Georgetown University Law Center: "And that raises very serious
questions about the objectivity and fairness of this court in resolving this
Several minutes later George Stephanopoulos told anchor
Aaron Brown: "Whichever side loses is going to feel like they were robbed
by a partisan court. Look at what happened yesterday. After the Florida
Supreme Court ruling you had prominent Republicans here in Washington, Tom
DeLay the House Majority Leader talking about, saying this act of judicial
aggression will not stand. You just saw Jack Kemp. Yesterday he called the
Florida Supreme Court ruling a judicial coup d'etat. So far Democrats are
being a little bit more circumspect about the United States Supreme Court
ruling today, but if they end up ruling for Bush and ending the hand counts
and ending this election you can bet you're going to hear Democrats saying,
'Listen, we had appointees of Nixon, Reagan and Bush handing the election to
In that case Democrats will be mimicking their allies in
the media. -- Brent Baker
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