Only a tiny fraction of stories leave a control room in shock and a news anchor visibly startled. Only a small number of stories cause a host to interrupt their own script, mid-paragraph, for breaking news, cautiously digesting the information being relayed by his or her producers before conveying it to the audience. Only few stories cause newspapers to rip up and redo their front pages on a Friday night.
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of those stories.
‘We have breaking news right now’
On MSNBC, Joy Reid was talking about Trump University when she abruptly stopped in the middle of the segment. “I’m going to hold on because we have some breaking news that we have to report,” Reid said, before taking a breath and informing her audience that Ginsburg had passed away at the age of 87.
CNN, meanwhile, was on a commercial break when Erin Burnett suddenly cut in. “We have breaking news right now,” Burnett told viewers with an urgency reserved for only the biggest news stories. It took Fox News several more minutes to bring their viewers the breaking story. The network was airing the Trump rally in Minnesota. Eventually Martha MacCallum broke in with a Fox News Alert, cutting away from Trump as he attacked the “fake polls.”
How news orgs remembered her
>> New Yorker: “Ginsburg bore witness to, argued for, and helped to constitutionalize the most hard-fought and least-appreciated revolution in modern American history: the emancipation of women. Aside from Thurgood Marshall, no single American has so wholly advanced the cause of equality under the law…”
>> WaPo: “Born in Depression-era Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg excelled academically and went to the top of her law school class at a time when women were still called upon to justify taking a man’s place. She earned a reputation as the legal embodiment of the women’s liberation movement and as a widely admired role model for generations of female lawyers…”
>> NYT: “Barely five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Justice Ginsburg drew comments for years on her fragile appearance. But she was tough…”
>> CNN: “Ginsburg developed a rock star status and was dubbed the ‘Notorious R.B.G.’ In speaking events across the country before liberal audiences, she was greeted with standing ovations as she spoke about her view of the law, her famed exercise routine and her often fiery dissents…”
Front and center
Ginsburg’s death will place the Supreme Court front and center of not only the presidential race, but in Senate races all across the country. This is one of the issues that will define the weeks leading up to the election. The precedents set by landmark cases like Roe v. Wade are quite literally at stake, as well as a host of other issues the court will decide in the years to come. And as Jim Sciutto pointed out, “A 5-3 conservative court may have some very big decisions to make about the upcoming election.”
Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday night to ensure Trump’s nominee — should he nominate someone, and all indications are that he will — gets a vote, and as Dana Bash pointed out on CNN, filling the bench has been the majority leader’s “singular focus.” Which is to say it’s very difficult to imagine a scenario where Republicans don’t move forward at some point between now and January 20th. Brit Hume made a smart point on Fox, noting that Trump’s promise to appoint conservative judges was an argument that actually helped persuade some Republicans who were otherwise uncomfortable with voting for him in 2016. Biden’s campaign has made significant effort to win over Republican voters in this race. Will the future of the court hinder Biden’s efforts? Or will it rally the left even more?
McConnell warns of ‘tremendous pressure from the press’
In a note McConnell sent to GOP senators, the majority leader wrote, “Over the coming days, we are all going to come under tremendous pressure from the press to announce how we will handle the coming nomination.” McConnell’s advice? “For those of you who are unsure how to answer, or for those inclined to oppose giving a nominee a vote, I urge you to all keep your powder dry. This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.”
>> McConnell is advising his colleagues that they should withhold from their constituents how they are leaning on an issue of incredible importance with an election fast approaching…
‘My most fervent wish’
Will Ginsburg’s dying wish be honored? We’ll see. Before she died, Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera, NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported. The statement read, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Fox guests call for Trump to make nomination
Some guests on Fox wasted no time calling for Trump to nominate a justice to fill the vacancy. Ned Ryun said the President should “seize the moment” and make a nomination. Ted Cruz later told Sean Hannity that he believes Trump should “next week nominate a successor to the court.” Cruz added, “I think it is critical the Senate takes up and confirms that successor before Election Day.”
Expect this pressure to ramp up and be at full speed by the end of the weekend. Right-wing media will undoubtedly call for Trump to make a nomination. The mindset for conservatives has, for some time, been defined by what the late Andrew Breitbart used to say: “#WAR.” In other words, arguments about rules and precedent are not likely to be effective. There are no rules in war — and that is the state that right-wing media has conditioned its audience to be in.
> Related: Matt Gertz at the progressive media watchdog Media Matters put together a compilation of “when Fox hosts said that you shouldn’t push a Supreme Court nomination during an election year…”
The view on MSNBC
Brian Stelter writes: “Chris Hayes‘ guest Rebecca Traister took a big gulp of wine as Hayes reported McConnell’s statement. Hayes ended his hour by saying, ‘The future is unwritten, and anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is wrong. We are utterly uncharted territory.’ Rachel Maddow agreed and said humility is essential in a moment like this. Maddow then interviewed Hillary Clinton, who said ‘She stood on the side of moving us toward a more perfect union…'”
NYT’s historic A1