On March 23, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson sat before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the third day of her confirmation hearing for a spot on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jackson’s historic nomination and aggressive questioning by Republican senators dominated the week’s news headlines. But some social media users suggested that news networks’ coverage of the hearing revealed liberal biases.
“Remember during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings when literally every network was covering it live? Where’s that with Jackson? Once AGAIN, more PROOF that the MSM are covering for pedos,” one March 22 Facebook post says, alluding to criticism from Republican lawmakers who say Jackson was too lenient when sentencing people convicted of possession of child pornography. PolitiFact found that Jackson’s approach to sentencing in child pornography cases did not significantly differ from that of other judges.
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First, let’s look at coverage of Jackson’s hearing.
We looked at the websites of several news outlets after the hearing got underway on March 23. NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, NPR and One America News Network all had live coverage of the hearing. NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and NPR were all streaming the hearing live on their sites. There were news stories on all the sites, and many had live analysis of the hearing.
The television broadcasts were less consistent. PolitiFact reporters in different states flipped through the channels on their TVs and found that MSNBC and OAN were airing the hearing live. CNN discussed the hearing among other news, such as about refugees fleeing war in Ukraine. Local news channels in at least two states — affiliates of NBC, ABC and CBS — were carrying regular programming, such as “The View” on ABC and “The Price is Right” on CBS.
Without the benefit of a time machine, we don’t know what we would find flipping through television channels on Sept. 6, 2018, day three of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. But online news coverage from that day is similar to how outlets have reported on Jackson’s hearing. And transcripts for programming that aired on CNN that day show that while the network aired some of the hearing and discussed it, it broke away for other news, such as an investigation into an active shooter in Cincinnati and coverage of social media company leaders testifying before lawmakers.
It’s important to remember that Kavanaugh’s hearing happened in two rounds. The first occurred Sept. 4-7, 2018, when he appeared before the Judiciary Committee and answered lawmakers’ questions about his judicial record and beliefs.
This was before Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh became public. Here’s what happened next:
On Sept. 13, the New York Times reported that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had referred a matter concerning Kavanaugh to federal investigators. She didn’t say what it was about, but two officials “familiar with the matter” told the Times the incident involved possible sexual misconduct between Kavanaugh and a woman when they were in high school. A few days later, Ford revealed her identity in an interview with the Washington Post, and two other women also accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. On Sept. 17, Ford and Kavanaugh agreed to testify before the Judiciary Committee.
That testimony happened on Sept. 27, and Kavanaugh vigorously denied the assault allegation.
It’s perhaps this exceptional day of the confirmation hearing that people remember in contrast to Jackson’s confirmation hearing. ABC, CBS and NBC skipped their usual daytime TV lineups to air the hearing live, Variety reported at the time.
“Every major broadcast and cable network suspended regular programming to carry gavel-to-gavel coverage,” the New York Times also reported.
But comparing Jackson’s hearing to this day of Kavanaugh’s is not apples-to-apples. It was not scheduled or anticipated until revelations of the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh, and it dealt wholly with those allegations as opposed to the questions of jurisprudence that came up during the original hearing dates.
Senators confirmed Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination on Oct. 6, 2018. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Jackson’s nomination on April 4; that’s followed by a vote from the full Senate.
We didn’t find evidence that coverage of Jackson’s hearing is wildly out of step with coverage of the usual days of Kavanaugh’s hearing, and it’s not true that no news networks are covering her hearing live.
We rate this post False.
This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for this fact check here and more of their fact checks here.