News Release

Media Shocked by the Leak, Not the Opinion

JULIE HOLLAR, jhollar@fair.org@HollarJulie Hollar is senior analyst for the media watch group FAIR.

She just co-wrote the piece “Media Shocked by the Leak, Not the Opinion,” which states: “When Politico (5/2/22) published a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion that would, if handed down by the Court, overturn Roe v. Wade and undermine the foundation for many privacy rights enjoyed by Americans today, it was a headline story across US news outlets. But in the flood of coverage, too many elite media outlets focused on the leak itself and treated the issue as a political football, rather than centering the real-world implications the opinion would have for everyday people.

“On NBC Nightly News (5/3/22), for instance, anchor Lester Holt turned first to Justice correspondent Pete Williams to explain what happened. Williams began by offering viewers his take: ‘While the publication of the draft is a shock, the conclusion of the draft shouldn’t be.’

“Though most court observers did expect the conservative super-majority to overturn Roe (CounterSpin, 9/15/21), Alito’s conclusion — that not only was Roe ‘egregiously wrong,’ but that ‘unenumerated rights’ to privacy or autonomy in general have no constitutional grounding — was, in fact, shocking to many of those who analyzed it (e.g., Slate, 5/2/22). And just because something is anticipated doesn’t mean it’s not still shocking.

“But with that framing, it was little surprise that the first expert Williams turned to for commentary, Tom Goldstein of SCOTUS Blog, spoke only of the gravity of the leak. (‘This has never happened in American history. And the Court may never be the same when it comes to the trust between the justices and all of their law clerks.’)”

Last year, Hollar wrote the piece “State Campaigns to Outlaw Abortion Barely Mentioned by Major Outlets.” She said today: “For more than four months last year, as the GOP furiously passed state-level abortion restrictions, big media barely took notice. The New York Times mentioned the campaign once in print. NBC News: zero times on the air.”