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Why This Right-Wing Kagan Lie Isn't Working In the Press

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Let's chalk it up to progress.

One year ago, the Beltway press was willingly led around by right-wing Obama critics who, by grabbing some old quotes ("wise Latina women") and twisting them out of context, launched a smear campaign against his Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, while labeling her a racist in the process. Instead of stepping in and offering clarity surrounding the bogus quote-driven attack, the press played along. The press played dumb on a massive scale and helped hype the phony "racist" attack against one of the country's rising legal stars.

Fast forward: In the wake of Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court this week, the GOP noise machine swooped back into action and once again launched a nasty smear campaign that was built on falsehoods and misinformation. (i.e. She had "banned" military recruiters from the Harvard Law School campus.) But much to my surprise, this time, portions of Beltway press didn't take the bait. This time, key players within the press corps reported the facts on the case while refusing to play the role of an eager amplifier for a right-wing lie.

I realize that commending journalists for simply doing their job seems odd, and in a way represents the soft bigotry of low expectations. But given the Beltway press corps' truly dreadful Supreme Court performance last summer with regard to Sotomayor, the recent coverage represents a ray of hope.

And notice I'm not toasting the press because I think journalists went easy on Kagan this week, or they ignored the controversial issue of how military recruiters were treated by Harvard Law School during her tenure as dean. Not at all. I'm simply noting that when confronted with a blatant misinformation campaign about Kagan and the recruiters, a number of journalists did the right thing and spelled out the facts. Period.

Was the recruiting coverage some sort of award-winning effort? Hardly. Journalists could have done a better job detailing how Harvard Law School students were never denied access to recruiters, and that Kagan at every step followed the law.

But in general, I think it's clear the right-wing's beloved Kagan-banned-military-recruiters-from-Harvard myth never broke free from the far-right media echo chamber even though, Lord knows, the GOP Noise Machine tried to push it.

Read the full Media Matters column here.