March 24, 2022

Ahh, we had such high expectations.

We were told, by Republicans in fact, that the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson would be respectful and fair and maybe even, dare it be said, nice. Several GOP senators got in their little digs, taking shots at Democrats over the contentious confirmation hearings of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

But it won’t be like that, they said — a not-so-subtle reminder that they thought Kavanaugh was treated unfairly. Still, the pledge that Jackson would be treated fairly also seemed genuine.

Then the hearings actually started.

Vox’s ​​Ian Millhiser wrote, “One day after Republican senators promised they wouldn’t levy personal attacks against Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, several of them generated a storm of misleading — and often offensive — attacks against her.”

It got even more in the gutter on Wednesday, with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz leading the way.

In his story for The New York Times, Jonathan Weisman wrote, “Mr. Graham’s aggressive questioning of Judge Jackson over the past two days — which has included rapid-fire rhetorical questions, frequent interruptions and some lengthy, fiery lectures — suggested that he was unlikely to back her for the nation’s highest court.”

In a brief interview with The Washington Post, Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney criticized his fellow Republicans for their questioning of Jackson’s stance on sex offenders, saying, “It struck me that it was off course, meaning the attacks were off course that came from some. And there is no ‘there’ there.”

Cruz also had several viral video moments on Wednesday. In questioning Jackson about transgender issues, Cruz said, “I’m a Hispanic man. Could I decide that I was an Asian man?”

Later, Cruz got into what could accurately be described as a heated exchange with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

While Republican senators have talked about issues such as race, gender and abortion, the one major theme is this idea that Jackson is soft on crime, particularly sex offenders.

In an analysis piece for CNN, Brandon Tensley wrote, “Jackson refuted the already debunked accusation that she under-sentenced in child pornography cases — a thorough CNN review found that she largely hewed to the common judicial sentencing practices in these kinds of cases — and meticulously laid out her approach to an issue that she described as a ‘sickening and egregious crime.’”

The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips put it more succinctly: “There is no evidence Jackson has sentenced child-porn offenders any differently than other judges.” Phillips cited Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.

Despite Jackson’s record holding up against the scrutiny, Millhiser wrote, “If Republicans succeed in derailing Jackson’s nomination with these kinds of allegations, that will teach the GOP that this kind of allegation works. It will teach them that the apparently quite large minority of Americans who believe in ridiculous conspiracy theories about Democrats and sex offenders are a powerful political force that can be tapped into. But even if they don’t succeed, Republicans are tapping into the ugliest ideas that exist in American society. They’re throwing around allegations that rely on distorted versions of someone’s actions. And they’re doing so in the hopes of derailing the nomination of a judge with an entirely mainstream record.”

Taking heat

C-SPAN’s Twitter account took some grief Wednesday for a tweet that showed a clip of Graham questioning Jackson. The tweet read: “Heated exchange between Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sen. @LindseyGrahamSC on child pornography sentencing.”

Social media jumped on the “heated exchange” part because it appeared only Graham was heated, while Jackson remained poised. Another tweet later described another exchange as being “tense,” as did stories and tweets from several other outlets.

New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman reported one exchange as being “heated,” but wrote, “The flashes of temper were particularly striking coming from a senator who voted less than a year ago to confirm Judge Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin called out the mainstream media, tweeting, “here is where the MSM totally fails. ‘tense’ questioning? no, bullying, interrupting, rude, overbearing. Describe what you SEE not what sounds neutral.”

Veteran journalist Soledad O’Brien tweeted, “Journalists: you could do better. It is possible.”

Look, we’ve all used a careless word at one time or another — in a tweet, in a conversation, maybe even in a story or headline. So I’m generally hesitant to criticize anyone for a hastily-written tweet, which I believe this was. (As opposed to a well-thought-out tweet that really meant to accurately convey what happened.)

But it is a good reminder that words do matter — even in a tweet written merely to set up a video.

Lastly, on the hearings

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote, “4 takeaways from Day 3 of the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings.” The Associated Press’ Lisa Mascaro has “Takeaways: Supreme Court hearings a venue for culture wars.”

Also in The Post, Dan Balz with “Jackson endures questioning with racial overtones from GOP senators.” Balz wrote, “The grilling she has experienced is a reminder that Black Americans are seen and often judged through a different lens than White Americans — and that they also have life experiences that White Americans do not share.”

Balz summed it all up accurately when he wrote, “Supreme Court confirmation hearings have become predictable, more performative politics than honest inquiry. There are still moments of rigorous questioning and intellectual discussion about the court and cases and judicial philosophy. But partisanship rules the hearing room — as it rules so much else — and few if any votes are likely to be changed by the exchanges between senators and Jackson.”

CNN’s S.E. Cupp makes an interesting argument that cameras should never be allowed into the Supreme Court, calling it a “terrible idea” because lawyers might play for the cameras. And to make her point, Cupp pointed to the display of senators during these confirmation hearings, saying they were “acting like they were on an episode of ‘Law & Order.’”

Today is the final day of the hearings. Jackson will not appear. The committee will hear from outside witnesses and the American Bar Association.

The latest from Russia-Ukraine

President Joe Biden is greeted by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo after arriving at Brussels National Airport on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Here are some of the notable pieces from the crisis in Europe, where the U.S. government has formally declared that members of the Russian armed forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

Politico finds a new leader

Dafna Linzer has been named the new executive editor of Politico. She replaces Carrie Budoff Brown, who left earlier this year for NBC News.

Linzer, the former managing editor of politics for NBC News and MSNBC, will report to editor-in-chief Matthew Kaminski.

In announcing the move to staff, Kaminski wrote, “Following a national search, Dafna emerged as an ideal candidate to join the editorial leadership team in this essential role. Dafna’s mandate is to ensure that our journalism is best in class and ambitious, and that we have the talent here to deliver on that promise to our readers.”

Kaminski added, “Working closely with me and other editors, Dafna will steer our daily report across the newsroom. I’ve also asked her to oversee the news, Washington and politics, states and enterprise teams. She’ll help all of us recruit aggressively, and be an indispensable partner to our colleagues on the business side.”

Linzer — who has experience as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press, a senior reporter at ProPublica, and a national security reporter for The Washington Post — will start on April 25.

Oh my

Homes are damaged after a tornado swept through Arabi, La., Tuesday night. A tornado flipped cars, ripped off rooftops and deposited a house in the middle of a street in the New Orleans area, part of a storm front that caused damage in places as it blew from Texas to South Carolina. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

This headline on is as scary as it is unbelievable: “Girl in wheelchair rescued from Arabi home that tornado heaved into road in ‘Wizard of Oz ride.’”

A “Wizard of Oz” ride? Yikes! John Simerman of writes that a New Orleans man named Chuck Heirsch was asleep Tuesday night when he was woken by an emergency alert on his phone and objects bouncing off his house. By the time he opened his door, a tornado had passed by. He looked outside and couldn’t believe what he saw: a motorized wheelchair sat empty next to a house — that had landed in the middle of the street.

The one-story home had been ripped off its cinder blocks and flung onto the road.

Heirsch said, “I saw the house and I saw my neighbor trying to get his daughter out of there. They were screaming. His wife was hysterical. They were already traumatized from taking that ‘Wizard of Oz’ ride.”

The daughter, a disabled girl on a respirator, was rescued from the house by neighbors. Authorities said she was hospitalized but was “doing fine.”

It was just one of at least two tornadoes that ripped through the New Orleans area, killing at least one person and destroying many homes and leaving thousands without power.

St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis told CNN, “It’s about a 2-mile stretch (of damage). … We have stretches of streets where there are no homes now.” He added it was a “miracle” more people weren’t killed.

Astonishing drone video, seen here on TV station 4WWL, shows the path of destruction. And, here on WVUE Fox 8, is the frightening look at the rare multi-vortex tornado.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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