Opinions and Legal Insights

Injudicious: Pelosi Calls Barrett “Illegitimate” As MSNBC’s Joy Reid Calls Thomas “Uncle Clarence”

The sobering election results do not seem to have altered the heated rhetoric from Democratic leaders or media figures. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who oversaw another loss of seats in the House, lashed out at Justice Amy Coney Barrett as “illegitimate.”  MSNBC’s Joy Reid once again triggered outrage with a reference to Justice Clarence Thomas as “Uncle Clarence” — a clear reference to the racial slur of being an “Uncle Tom.”  There was no outrage in the media which has previously criticized President Trump for attacks on jurists.

Pelosi received widespread coverage (and comparatively little criticism) for her denouncing Barrett as an “illegitimate Supreme Court justice.” It is an outrageous and irresponsible statement from the person third in line to the presidency. There is nothing illegitimate about Barrett who was installed through a constitutional process to fill a vacancy on the Court. Much like Pelosi’s ripping up the State of the Union speech, the comment shows an utter disregard by Pelosi of her role representing the entire House of Representatives in her position.

The media has often objected to President Trump’s attacks on judges. I have joined in that criticism as unjustified and inimical to the respect for our legal institutions. Yet, Pelosi is telling citizens that a justice is “illegitimate” without a peep of protest from the same legal analysts and media figures who piled on Trump for his criticism. This is particularly irresponsible with rioting breaking out in this country connected to the election.

That reaction is less surprising when you see what is now considered acceptable commentary by media figures like Joy Reid.  Reid has been repeatedly called out for prejudiced and outrageous statements.  When homophobic comments by Reid were raised, she claimed that she had been hacked. Notably, when this claim was made by figures like C-Span host Steve Scully, the claim was debunked and he was fired. Not Reid.  MSNBC gave Reid her own show.

NBC and MSNBC also did nothing after Reid falsely slandered a Trump supporter.She was sued by Roslyn La Liberte, a Trump supporter, who was trashed by Reid for comments that she never made and an account that proved to be untrue.  Reid retweeted this image of La Liberte in the MAGA hat from a city council meeting in California during debate over SB 54, a law limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.  Reid first retweeted the image with the  caption, “You are going to be the first deported.” Then, in a second post on Instagram, she wrote that the woman in the photo had screamed “You are going to be the first deported … dirty Mexican!” In additional postings on Instagram and Facebook, Reid said “Make the picture black and white and it could be the 1950s and the desegregation of a school. Hate is real, y’all. It hasn’t even really gone away.” The problem is that the image was false as was the account.  La Liberte is the daughter of immigrants and was described as trying to calm the situation down.  The 14-year-old at the center of the controversy was shown hugging La Liberte after their exchange. As stated in a federal complaint,  the misleading caption and posting to Reid’s1.24 million followers was a classic defamation action.

In addition to homophobic statements and supporting 9/11 conspiracy theories, Reid has previously attacked other blacks who do not support Democratic candidates or causes. She attacked Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron by telling viewers “Don’t look at the fact that this guy is black. That does not mean anything. He is a Republican, through and through.”

Reid has not confined her reckless comments to Republicans. She also attacked Bernie Sanders supporters.

Now, NBC and MSNBC has not even issued a condemnation over a host using an openly racist slur.  Reid asked with other network panelists during the election coverage that “If somehow they manage to stumble into the Supreme Court, do any of you guys expect Uncle Clarence and Amy Coney Barrett and those guys to actually follow the letter of the law?”

None of the other network figures on the panel made any objection Anti-racist policies appear not to apply to Barrett.

This election not only showed a rejection of the Democratic platform but also the unrelenting anti-Trump coverage by the media. Yet, the debunking of the overwhelming news analysis and polling leading up to the election has not resulted in any change in the narrative. There remains a strikingly bias in coverage on such outrageous comments even when the Speaker is attacking the legitimacy of a sitting justice or a leading television host espousing openly racist slurs.