How the Press Has Covered Recent Supreme Court Picks

Last night President Trump announced the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. While there has been intense speculation surrounding the Supreme Court nomination, Judge Kavanaugh’s official nomination has elicited a wide range of responses from Republicans, Democrats, and the media. It is important to note the differences in nominee coverage between the country’s two leading newspapers, the left-leaning New York Times and the more conservative Wall Street Journal. 

Below are the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal headlines for the six most recent Supreme Court nominations, all of which were published the week of the president’s announcement.

1. Brett Kavanaugh, Nominated by President Donald Trump July 9, 2017 

The New York Times: “Brett Kavanaugh Is Trump’s Pick for Supreme Court.On July 9, 2017 the New York Times described Judge Kavanaugh as a connected and influential member of the conservative legal establishment in Washington. In addition, it highlighted that a more conservative ideology on the Supreme Court would be cemented for a generation should Kavanaugh be confirmed.

Wall Street Journal:Trump Picks Kavanaugh for High Court.” On July 10, the Wall Street Journal characterized Judge Kavanaugh as a favorite of the conservative establishment who had been the front-runner for the position since Justice Kennedy announced his retirement. It also focused on Judge Kavanaugh’s importance for the ideological direction of the court and outlined the high drama that is expected to surround the Senate confirmation process.

2. Neil Gorsuch, Nominated by President Donald Trump January 31, 2017 

The New York Times: “In Judge Neil Gorsuch, an Echo of Scalia in Philosophy and Style.” In this piece from January 31, 2017, the New York Times highlighted that Judge Gorsuch has “deep roots” in Washington, D.C., which makes him an interesting choice for President Trump. The paper also reports that some liberals have called Judge Gorsuch “even more radical than Scalia,” stressing that his appointment could push the court in an even more conservative direction. 

The Wall Street Journal: “Judge Neil Gorsuch is Critic of Legal Doctrine That Bolsters Executive Authority.” On the same day, the Wall Street Journal piece notes that Judge Gorsuch is viewed by conservatives as an appropriate choice to replace Justice Scalia. But the paper also emphasizes that he may actually want to weaken the power of the executive branch. This presumably would appeal to Democrats during the Trump administration.

3. Merrick Garland, Nominated by President Barack Obama March 16, 2016

The New York Times: “Merrick Garland Visits Capitol as G.O.P. Digs in Against Vote.” This article, published a day after Judge Garland’s nomination was announced by President Obama, underscores Republican resistance to holding a confirmation vote for the nominee during an election year. 

The Wall Street Journal: “For Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland, Law Prevails Over Ideology.” This Wall Street Journal piece from March 16, 2016 characterized Judge Garland as a “middle-of-the-road judge” who is not bound to partisan politics.

4. Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Nominated by President Barack Obama May 10, 2010

The New York Times: “Kagan Nomination Leaves Longing on the Left.” On May 10, 2010 the New York Times writes that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is arguably not liberal enough for those hoping to see a nominee from President Obama who would promote radical social change. 

The Wall Street Journal: “Court Nominee Draws Split Verdict on Hill.” On May 11, the Wall Street Journal reported that conservatives are concerned with Solicitor General Kagan’s lack of experience as a judge, at the same time that President Obama continues to stress her centrist credentials.

5. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Nominated by President Barack Obama May 26, 2009 

The New York Times: “Obama Hails Judge as Inspiring.” This article from May 26, 2009 noted that Judge Sotomayor does not fit the typical Supreme Court justice profile, having grown up in public housing in the Bronx. If confirmed, the New York Times reports, Judge Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic justice in the court’s history.

The Wall Street Journal: “In College Thesis, Sotomayor Appeared to Support Puerto Rican Independence.” This Journal piece from the same day argued that Justice Sotomayor supported Puerto Rican independence in her college thesis and could very well still have that stance. However, it also makes note of a White House statement countering this narrative and stressing that Judge Sotomayor was not pushing for the island’s statehood.

6. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Nominated by President George W. Bush October 31, 2005 

The New York Times: “Court Choice is Conservative By Nature, Not Ideology.” On November 7, 2005 the New York Times reported that Judge Alito is known for “a respect for stability and continuity in the law,” and that time will tell if he is “the upper-case conservative that the right may hope for and many on the left fear.” 

The Wall Street Journal: “Choice of Alito for High Court Sets Stage for Ideological Battle.” In an article from November 1, the Wall Street Journal focused on the confirmation process and the pushback from liberals Judge Alito will inevitably face. It also emphasized that a bipartisan group of senators called the “Gang of 14” would likely play an outsize role deciding whether Judge Alito is confirmed.

No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.

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