Dems, Media Target Judicial Nominee Over Her Response on Civil Rights Ruling, Omit Key Portion of It

Posted: Apr 12, 2018 12:10 PM

Trump judicial nominee Wendy Vitter was slammed by Democrats and the media Wednesday after she declined to comment on a landmark Supreme Court civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education, that struck down segregation in schools. The nominee for the Eastern District of Louisiana, in a manner not unusual for judicial nominees, declined to provide her personal view on Supreme Court precedent during her confirmation hearing. However, just moments later she called Supreme Court Justice Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, the dissent which lead to Brown v. Board of Education, the “right decision.” That fact went unmentioned in mainstream media reports and tweets from Democrats.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CO) asked Vitter if she believed that “Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided?”

“I don’t mean to be coy,” she replied, “but I think I get into a difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with. Again, my personal, political, or religious views I would set aside. That is Supreme Court precedent, it is binding, if I were honored to be confirmed, I would be bound by it and of course I would uphold it.”

Blumenthal then repeated the question.

“If I start commenting on I agree with this case or I don’t agree with this case I think we get into a slippery slope,” she emphasized. “If I’m honored to be confirmed I would be bound by Supreme Court precedent and that’s what I would follow, and Fifth Circuit precedent.”

Vitter also refused to comment on Roe v. Wade for this reason.

Blumenthal asked if there were any cases that Vitter “can tell us were correctly decided by the United States Supreme Court?”

“It’s very easy with hindsight, looking back through history to see ones that were not correctly decided,” she replied. “It’s very easy to see Plessy v. Ferguson and to read Justice Harlan’s dissent which of course became the basis for Brown v. Board of Education and to look at that and say well that sounds very obvious to us now in 2018, that that was the right decision, but that’s hindsight, I have the benefit of that hindsight.”

In spite of her response on this, Vitter was attacked, on Twitter and mainstream media outlets such as CNN, for her decision not to give personal views on SCOTUS precedent, with some misquoting her as saying she disagreed with Brown v. Board of Education and others implying that her non-response showed her disagreement with the case and her racism.

CNN even held a panel discussion on the topic Wednesday evening without playing the portion of her questioning where she called the dissent behind the ruling "the right decision" in "hindsight." 

CNN did acknowledge in their reporting that when asked about Brown v. Board of Education, “at times, other nominees -- even for the Supreme Court -- have declined to comment out of a fear of infecting the judicial process.”

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