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August 10, 2005

Bloody Shame


This political cartoon from the San Diego Union Tribune gave me a good chuckle this morning. Democratic partisans are trying very hard to dig up dirt on President Bush’s SCOTUS nominee, but haven’t come up with anything. When Drudge revealed that the NYT was looking into adoption records of Roberts’ children, my eyes became cross, but I didn’t expect anything else from the liberal rag. By the way, PowerPundit has a great roundup of commentary on that scandal.

My eyes became more than cross at Drudge’s latest newsflash: CNN Agrees to Air Bloody Abortion Ad on Judge Roberts.

I heard about it from Captain Ed on the Hugh Hewitt show yesterday and couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure if CNN has decided to back down yet, but the ad itself is pretty repulsive, not to mention blatantly false. Miguel Miranda takes NARAL to task in an Opinion Journal piece this morning.

Here’s the ad:

Announcer: Seven years ago, a bomb destroyed a woman's health clinic in Birmingham, Ala.

Emily Lyons: When a bomb ripped through my clinic, I almost lost my life. I will never be the same.

Announcer: Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.

Lyons: I'm determined to stop this violence, so I'm speaking out.

Announcer: Call your senators. Tell them to oppose John Roberts. America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans. is all over this ad, writing “in words and images, the ad conveys the idea that Roberts took a legal position excusing bombing of abortion clinics, which is false.”

Fact Check links to an image of a letter penned by Roberts which states clearly that those responsible for abortion clinic bombings “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law” and added, “No matter how lofty or sincerely held the goal, those who resort to violence to achieve it are criminals.”

This is clearly a breach of decency from a radical fringe group on the left. CNN’s commitment to mislead America with this ad is reprehensible, but the silence from Democratic leaders is truly despicable.

Posted by Rick at August 10, 2005 04:30 PM

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Rick writes: is all over this ad...

Which would have carried some weight were still in the business of checking facts. It is not, and it hasn't been for several years now. It's credibility is pretty much shot entirely to ribbons now.

Posted by: s9 at August 10, 2005 08:51 PM

s9, your logic is severly lacking.

Would you care to comment on's specific evidence on this account? Do they have the facts straight regarding Roberts' position? If you read my post, you'd realize they link to a specific letter written by Roberts which directly contradicts the NARAL account. Even Carville couldn't say a good word about this ad today on CNN.

Posted by: Rick Brady at August 10, 2005 09:23 PM

I'd rather not comment on's alleged "fact" checking, since they have spent whatever credibility they ever earned. Rather than refute their analysis point by point, it should be good enough to point out that they are no longer a credible organization, and that citations of their authority should be discounted until backed up by credible sources.

And no— they don't have the facts straight on Roberts' position.

Here's what I have to say about this particular analysis...

1. says, "the ad misleads when it says Roberts supported a clinic bomber". Where does the ad say this? It doesn't. Then continues to say, "It is true that Roberts sided with the bomber and many other defendants..." in the very next sentence, apparently without intending any irony.

2. says, "The ad contends that Roberts 'filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber,'" then proceeds to pretend as if the ad said something different, i.e. that Roberts was supporting "violence, bombings [or] the behavior that was the subject of the lawsuit - blockades of clinics." The ad did not contain those contentions.

3. says, "The ad fails to mention that the ‘court briefs’ it mentions are actually from nearly seven years before the abortion clinic bombing talked about in the ad." Yet, the date of the court briefs appears on screen, and the announcer clearly says the bombing happened seven years ago. How does this qualify as "fails to mention?"

4. says that Roberts' brief argued that the federal law "applied only to conspiracies to deprive people of civil rights due to racial discrimination, not gender discrimination." Not true... the actual brief argues that the behavior 1) was not gender discrimination, and 2) even if it was gender-based animus, it wasn't discrimination. Why does misrepresent the argument in the brief?

5. downplays the vicious and malicious tactics by Operation Rescue at the time of the Bray case, e.g. those employed against clinic personnel. It says, "in some ways [Operation Rescue's tactics] mirrored the non-violent tactics used earlier by civil-rights activists," as if to imply that O.R. was a civil-rights organization. It was not then, nor is it now.

Really, if you want to make the case that the NARAL ad misrepresents the facts, you need to do better than simply citing an article from They are not a credible organization anymore.

Oh, I should care what James Carville can or can't bring himself to say on CNN? Why?

Posted by: s9 at August 11, 2005 02:24 AM

What I find interesting is that, during the 2004 election campaign, CNN used to do segments in which they'd debunk things that the candidates were saying. One of their sources for the truth was ...

Now CNN won't bother with it. Heh.

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 11, 2005 08:26 AM

s9, I've done some fact-checking of my own, and you don't come out looking so well.

1. From the ad: “Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.” NARAL is hoping people will assume that Roberts supported the bomber in his act of bombing. I know this is true because the ad also says, “America can't afford a Justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans”, and so they’re aiding and abetting this incorrect assumption. But that’s not what Roberts was doing in his court briefs. If you had bothered to continue quoting, you would see that Roberts was arguing against the misuse of an anti-discrimination law. (And the Supreme Court agreed, 6 to 3.)

2. From the ad: “America can't afford a Justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans.” Excusing violence supports it. Justice Roberts did neither.

3. Two different sets of “seven years”. The ad does say “seven years ago”, but it’s referring to when the bombing occurred; seven years ago from today. What they fail to mention is that the court briefs are from seven years before that, 14 years ago from today. If you’ve videotaped the ad or download the video (available here) and pause it at just the right time, you can, in fact, see that the court papers are dated 1991, but they’re in a dim grey color. Two seconds later, the date is obscured by the words “Roberts filed court brief supporting clinic protestors” in bright yellow. Technically, you are correct that they “show” it, but a viewer wouldn’t have time to see it among all the other dim grey text in the 2 seconds allotted, and it’s not mentioned at all in the voice-over. This gives the impression that Roberts filed briefs in support of the specific bombing being highlighted. This is false.

4. I’ll have to give you the benefit of the doubt here, as I haven’t read the actual brief (and don’t know enough legalese). However, two things. 1) The difference between what says and what you say is extremely minor; the brief contended that the law doesn’t apply since there was no gender discrimination, if there was any discrimination at all. The article isn’t quite as legalese as yours, but it’s certainly very close and generally correct. 2) So what? Whatever the legal details of the brief, Roberts still didn’t file anything in support or excuse of a bombing, which is what the ad is trying to get folks to assume.

5. For one who has completely ignored the ad’s implications, I find it odd and rather myopic that you’re now accusing of implying things. First, to be clear (and I know you didn’t contend this), Michael Bray was not a member of Operation Rescue. Secondly, while you (and I) might find OR’s tactics over-the-top in some cases, they were not bombers, which, after all, is the main focus of this ad. Further, I don’t believe that OR was ever involved in intentionally and systematically harming anyone in their protests. Thus the “non-violent” moniker. The article doesn’t say that OR was a civil rights organization, only that they used non-violent protests which “in some ways mirrored” tactics used by civil rights groups.

Additionally, this fifth point doesn’t even support your contention that FactCheck is wrong. You’re just upset that they don’t portray OR in the way you want them to.

So it looks like FactCheck is doing just fine.

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 11, 2005 03:11 PM

I don't find any of your rebuttals very convincing.

p1. You're trying to weasel away from the truth here. Roberts did, in fact, file briefs and argued in the Supreme Court in favor of violent extremist groups and someone who had been, in fact, convicted of conspiracy to bomb clinics, illegal possession of explosives, and who wrote a fscking book in which he offered his justifying rationale for murdering clinic doctors and staff.

p2. You're still trying to weasel away from the truth in p1. above. Roberts acted in the defense of a clinic bomber.

p3. You're complaining, not that the ad is factually incorrect, but that you mistakenly acquired a false impression from it. This says less about the truth of the ad and more about your powers of comprehension. I was complaining about misrepresenting the facts, and you answer that didn't misrepresent them, but you misinterpreted them anyway?

p4. You may think this is thin soup, but my point is that presents itself as an organization devoted to not making mistakes like this. There was a time— before it was coöpted by wingnuts— that this was true. It is not true any longer, as we can see.

p5. My point here was to support my claim that has lost any legitimate claim on being a source of objective factual analysis. This failure to characterize Operation Rescue as a radical extremist group— and make no mistake, it was a radical extremist group then and it still is now— was an obvious demonstration of its lack of objectivity.

Look, I agree with Kevin Drum on this subject. There are a lot of reasons to criticize the NARAL advertisement— but, isn't capable of doing a good job here, because they've been taken over by a collection of right-wing hacks. I'd much rather NARAL had used a script more like the one Kevin proposes in the article I just linked.

Posted by: s9 at August 11, 2005 06:34 PM

s9, are lawyers who argue for the representation of detainees at Guantanamo are siding with terrorists? No, they are arguing for representation and I do not therefore conclude they are aiding and abetting terrorists. Do you?

Roberts arguments against misapplication of a discrimination law are in this vein. Courts try to overstep their bounds all the time and I'm glad the government was willing to stick its neck out and say enough is enough, even if it wasn't (isn't) poltiically popular. It has less to do with the subject than it has to do with the process.

Senator Boxer has this problem all the time. She seems to think that the French Fry incident is evidence of Roberts' fitness. Give me a break.

Another example. John Adams defended British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre and won. Did he side with them? If you read the history, you'll see he clearly did not. He sided with the process and that is all Roberts did here.

The NARAL ad clearly implies Roberts sided with the bombers when he did nothing of the sort.

Posted by: Rick at August 11, 2005 07:25 PM

You don’t find any of my arguments convincing? So when you contend that the ad didn’t say that Roberts supported clinic bombers, and I quote the ad which clearly does say that, you don’t find that convincing? And then you say that I’m trying to weasel away from the truth? If so, then I don’t think anyone’s capable of convincing you of anything you’ve already made your mind up about.

You contended that the ad did mention that the court briefs were filed 7 years ago, and I pointed out the the bombing happened 7 years ago but the court briefs happened 14 years ago, which the ad does not say. Again, contrary to your assertion, was right to note that the briefs were filed 7 years before the bombing. Simple numbers prove them right, and yet you don’t find that convincing?

So when you contend that the ad didn’t say that Roberts supported the actions of the clinic bombers, and I quote the ad which does say that Roberts excuses those actions (which is tacit support), you don’t find that convincing? The entire ad is centered on a clinic bombing and words directly from a bombing victim, and you aren’t convinced that NARAL is hoping folks will make a connection? I’m not getting a false impression from the ad, but a simple viewing of the ad could lead someone who catches just that quick spot to come to that conclusion. A 2-second, dimly lit date amidst a boatload of other dimly lit text is not a fair presentation of the facts. This ad is intentionally meant to mislead someone to the conclusion NARAL wants them to arrive at.

Yes, I think your legalese contention is thin soup bordering on water. Your description and FactCheck’s description say the same thing. It’s not a mistake, it’s a paraphrase. If you want to strain at a gnat, be my guest, but it’s certainly no reputation-killing gaffe.

And I’ll second Rick’s thought above, that your words essentially condemn every single defense attorney on the planet as being, if not culpable with, then at least supportive of their client’s crimes. This is preposterous on its face. Yes, Roberts did file briefs on behalf of bad guys, because the law was being misapplied. Do you want to be in the camp that says that misuse of the law is OK when the ends justify the means? If not, consider that this entire ad against Roberts is premised on the fact that he filed briefs to ensure that the rule of law was applied properly.

Even the Kevin Drum post you linked to agrees with that (“Defending the principle doesn't mean you're defending a particular person or group….”). The best he can do is say, “Well, the Swift Boat Vets were worse” (the “Nyah-nyah” defense), and he still ends his version of the ad the same way; suggesting that defending the rule of law is somehow tantamount to excusing behavior.

Your standard of proof is impossible to meet, sir. When your own contentions are proved to be entirely false, you accuse the other person of weaseling around the truth. This makes reasonable discussions nearly impossible. I’m happy to discuss these issues, and I’ll acknowledge my shortcomings, but only if this is a two-way street.

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 11, 2005 09:31 PM

Gentlemen— I was asked to explain why I found's analysis unconvincing, not to make my own analysis of the NARAL advertisement. I haven't really made a careful analysis of it on my own, but my cursory analysis tends to line up with Kevin Drum's— which is, you must admit, quite different from's.

And yes, I do think that lawyers who argue in the defense of detainees, at Guantanamo and elsewhere, who are accused of being unlawful combatants, are providing support and assistance to people accused of being unlawful combatants. Apparently, you think all people accused of being unlawful combatants by the same people who accused Saddam Hussein, without any compelling evidence and against the advice of countless experts, of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction are, ipso facto, terrorists. I don't see how that equivalence works, and I wonder about the patriotism of people who do.

Posted by: s9 at August 12, 2005 02:52 PM