False Claim About Justice Scalia from Liberal Reporter: No, He Didn’t Say He Would Have Voted to Uphold Segregation

Liberals are busy sending each other twitters falsely claiming that Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the more conservative members of the Supreme Court, said that he would have voted to uphold school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

There’s just one problem: he never said any such thing. He said the very opposite!

A liberal reporter for Capitol Media Services, Howard Fischer, made the claim that Scalia said he would have voted to uphold segregation, in a story carried in the East Valley Tribune. But as even liberal law professor Jack Balkin, who was initially fooled by the story, now admits, it’s pure bunk: a video recording of the event shows that Scalia actually said he would have voted to strike down segregation.

Before the error was uncovered, the story circulated all around the internet, including at CQ Politics’ Political Wire, and as a result, we can expect to see the false claim repeated for weeks in the press. (Political Wire, for example, contains a commentary by Taegan Doddard entitled, “Scalia Would Have Voted to Keep School Segregation.”)

This sort of reporting is typical for liberal court reporters, who routinely make false claims that make conservatives or businesses look bad or politically-correct constituencies look good. A classic example is the Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision, which Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times deliberately distorted to make it seem like the Supreme Court had created a rule that discrimination plaintiffs have to sue even before they could have learned about pay discrimination. (In fact, the plaintiff in the Ledbetter case had known of the pay disparity she later claimed was discriminatory for at least 5 years before complaining to the EEOC. By distorting the facts of the case, and what the Supreme Court actually held, the press also created a political weapon for the Obama campaign to use against McCain in the 2008 campaign.)

Another example is the Duke Lacrosse case, where the prosecutor was later jailed for misconduct for pressing a baseless interracial rape case against innocent Lacrosse players. DNA evidence proved the players were innocent, and North Carolina’s attorney general admitted that they were in fact innocent. But the New York Times’ Duff Wilson claimed that a substantial “body of evidence” pointed to the defendants’ guilt.

CBS News legal “analyst” Andrew Cohen repeatedly denounced the Duke lacrosse players, calling for the gagging of their attorneys. At a time when few journalists dared question the rape claim for fear of being seen as politically incorrect, Cohen absurdly claimed that the media had rushed to the “defense” of the players and that “there is no balanced coverage in the Duke case. There is just one defense-themed story after another.” He demanded for prosecutor Mike Nifong “the privilege of seeing the case unfold at trial” against the players, rather than dropping the prosecution.

Sadly, both Wilson and Cohen still have their jobs, suggesting that liberal bias is viewed as a plus when it comes to employment with the “mainstream” media. (Cohen’s “evidence-free” commentaries denouncing Justice Scalia are a self-parody of left-wing bias.)

I don’t agree with Justice Scalia on everything. (See my law journal article criticizing the ruling he and the “conservative” justices issued in Morse v. Frederick.)  But the liberal bias of Supreme Court press coverage is obvious to me.

UPDATE, Oct. 27, 4:12 p.m.: the reporter who made the false claim about Scalia (Howard Fischer) has now deleted his claim that Scalia would uphold segregation from his story, tacitly admitting that he was wrong.  But he did not disclose the error in his original story for readers.  As a commenter to his story, jayr23, notes

“Sorry Scalia. I disagree with you in general but it looks like you were terribly misquoted here. The only hack is the reporter.

Mr. Fischer should probably correct this and then apologize.

BTW, a correction is not simply a deletion of the offending material! Sheesh. Journalism has sunk to an all time low.”

SECOND UPDATE, Oct. 27, 6:22 p.m.: The erroneous story’s internet version has now been revised to contain a vague reference to its error, in a passage that reads:

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story that was originally posted Oct. 26. It removes an incorrect reference to Brown v. Board of Education in the initial version.”