A Bit Much? ABC Compares ‘Brilliant’ Ketanji Brown Jackson to Harriet Tubman

News & Politics

ABC and NBC broke in with special reports Thursday for the historic swearing in of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to reach the high court, but the Disney-owned network went beyond the predictable accolades into the extremes as longtime Supreme Court reporter Terry Moran said Jackson will go down on the same plane as iconic Americans abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.

Moran told fill-in anchor Whit Johnson that while “[t]he ideological balance remains the same” on the Court, Jackson’s arrival represented so much more as “watching that ceremony, it’s so moving and so extraordinary and so overdue.”

Noting correctly that Black women were excluded from positions of power for far too long, Moran gushed that Jackson will go in the pantheon of other famous Black women:

Black American women have — have built this country…in the face of so much opposition and struggle. And we all know them, we grow up learning the names of Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth and Marianne Anderson, and Barbara Jordan, and so many, and here’s Ketanji Brown Jackson, now stepping forward in that line, onto the Supreme Court of the United States, representing not just those, but the countless others who did help build our country.

Moran added that she brings “so much more than her identity,” including “a brilliant legal mind and…an experience to the Court that it really needs” as a former public defender and “a working mother.”

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Nevermind the fact that Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been a working mother on the Court two years already, Terry!

While not as over-the-top, Moran had plenty of company in trumpeting Jackson. Correspondent Linsey Davis said prior to the swearing-in that she is “really the embodiment of progress” and thus there’s “so much excitement about the — the weight of this moment, the monumental moment, the magnitude of it all that.”

After the swearing-in, Davis harkened back to her confirmation hearings and how, while in undergrad at Harvard, Jackson was unsure if she belonged there as a Black woman but nonetheless “perserve[d] and look at the fruit of that.”

ABC News legal contributor Kate Shaw focused on the ideological breakdown, warning that Jackson will join a “pretty aggressive” and “very bold” “sharply…conservative supermajority,” and thus “be on dissent…in a lot of cases.” 

Over on NBC, chief White House correspondent Peter Alexander threwback to her confirmation hearings to lament that she “really did get a — a front row seat to the deeply divided country we now live during her confirmation process where she was repeatedly attacked — and repeatedly attacked by Republican members of the Judiciary Committee who alleged that she was soft on crime.”

Always ready, able, and willing to peddle liberal propaganda, Washington correspondent Yamiche Alcindor touted messages from her friends that, of course, were happy for her (click “expand”):

I want to also tell you that I’ve been texting with some of her friends — some of her closest friends who have been with her since her days at Harvard university. Here’s what Judge Njeri Rutledge told me, “I’m filled with joy and hope despite” what she called “a disappointing supreme court decision that turns back 50 years of precedent. I am filled with pride that history is being made.” Another one of her friends, Antoinette Coakley, told me and she’s someone who was at the White House and who the judge actually called out by name as someone who supported her. She said: “We are honored here to stand in support of her. Today is a day of celebration, of jubilee, of a dream realized.”

One other friend Kimberly Jenkins Robinson — she said to me: “Despite the challenging times we are living in, the world,” as she said, “is a bit brighter as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson becomes a justice. Her wisdom, dedication and integrity will strengthen our nation and our judiciary. My heart is filled with joy for her and her family.” So, there you have it, some of her closest friends reflecting on how happy they are for her, how excited they are for her, but also really nodding to the history that we were talking about, Lester, talking about the fact that they understand that their friend is taking this seat during a really, really fraught time in our nation’s history. 

Rounding out the NBC Special Report, far-left legal analyst Neal Katyal made an appearance to not so much praise Jackson (which he did), but trash the six non-liberal justices as “acting like true law professors just writing things out and imposing their will on the nation” in the “most extreme way” imaginable.

Thus, he argued, Jackson will have  a chance “to try and lead the Court out of this mess” and “moderate the extremist tendencies of this court.”

Since this was a network special report, there were no advertisers.

To see the relevant transcripts from June 30, click “expand.”

ABC News Special Report
June 30, 2022
12:04 p.m. Eastern

LINSEY DAVIS: We are looking at someone who is really the embodiment of progress. For centuries in this country, the justices simply haven’t looked like and reflected the general population in this country. And something that she has talked about again and again is how, in just one generation in her family, they went from segregation to the Supreme Court. She has mentioned several times that she has come this far by faith. She mentioned after her confirmation that she is the hope and dream of the slave, quoting Maya Angelou there. And so, there is so much excitement about the — the weight of this moment, the monumental moment, the magnitude of it all that — that we are all going to watch in just a few moments as she goes from judge, as you said, to Justice Jackson.

(….)

12:09 p.m. Eastern

DAVIS: You know, what is so significant here is that every one of those justices, they bring their own unique perspective, based on their worldview, based on their life experiences. And so, what we’re witnessing in this moment is someone who is going to add a very unique world experience based on very starkly different life experiences. And today, I’m mindful of the story she shared during her nomination hearing where she talked about being that freshman student on Harvard’s campus, wondering, is this the right environment? Kind of suffering from that imposter syndrome. Can I do this? And she said that that anonymous black woman, who remains a stranger today, just whispered to her, persevere. And look at the fruit of that. Now that she has persevered. Not just for her, but for young girls, of all different colors today, who are looking at what is possible and what they can do. And she talked about the magnitude of this moment in — with The Washington Post. She said, “you feel the weight of wanting to succeed, not just for your own independent status, but because so many people are watching and view this as a door opening for others.” And a door it is. I mean, if you look at the court, just 50 years ago, 1972, all men, right? And now, as you mentioned earlier, Whit, you have four women serving at the same time. The 116th member of the Court, for the first time, a black woman in the Court’s 233 year history. 

WHIT JOHNSON: And millions of Americans who never have this kind of representation before, this historic moment. Linsey, thank you. I do want to turn now to our senior national correspondent, Terry Moran. Because we did note earlier, yes, the dynamics do shift on the court, but the ideological balance remains the same. 

TERRY MORAN: The ideological balance remains the same. There is an old saying that every new justice means a new court because of the personal dynamics. And watching that ceremony, it’s so moving and so extraordinary and so overdue. It’s 2022. Black American women have — have built this country from the earliest times in the face of so much opposition and struggle. And we all know them, we grow up learning the names of Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth and Marianne Anderson, and Barbara Jordan, and so many, and here’s Ketanji Brown Jackson, now stepping forward in that line, onto the Supreme Court of the United States, representing not just those, but the countless others who did help build our country. And she brings to this court, Whit, so much more than her identity. She also brings a brilliant legal mind. And she brings an experience to the Court that it really needs. She was a public defender. Imagine who has public defenders in this country. She stood by their side in American courtrooms and represented them. That is the perspective this Court lacks. And also is a working mother. I remember during her confirmation hearings, her speaking directly to her daughters, saying I know I did not always get the balance right, but I love you, and I tried to do my best and I hope you can see the hard work and determination pays off. This is a remarkable moment in American history. Long overdue. And it will not affect the ideological balance of the Court, but this Court is getting a justice that will affect its work profoundly.

(….)

12:13 p.m. Eastern

KATE SHAW: But of course, it is true that the balance of the court remains sharply conservative. This is a very bold and pretty aggressive conservative supermajority that just in the last week has changed the law of carrying firearms, abortion, environmental regulation, religion, and the list goes on. So, she is gonna be on dissent, I think, in a lot of cases.

(….)

12:14 p.m. Eastern

DAVIS: You know, we heard, many times, from Kamala Harris saying that she may be the first, but she won’t be the last. And I think that it does bear repeating, I’ve said it before, that this is also, for the generations of black women who would have, who could have, who should have been able to obtain and achieve in a way that, in this time, you know, obviously she has been confirmed. But this is the first time a black woman was ever even nominated — ever even given the opportunity to sit at the table. And so, this is something that many people are celebrating, at the same time feeling a little disappointed. Like, why is — why are we just now having the first? But it’s certainly to be commended today that it’s finally happened.

——–

NBC News Special Report
June 30, 2022
12:11 p.m. Eastern

PETER ALEXANDER: And Ketanji Brown Jackson really did get a — a front row seat to the deeply divided country we now live during her confirmation process where she was repeatedly attacked — and repeatedly attacked by Republican members of the Judiciary Committee who alleged that she was soft on crime. Nonetheless, she received the votes that she needed from the Democratic Congress, does become a justice right now, and she does begin a new term that’s likely to last decades.

(….)

12:13 p.m. Eastern

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: I want to also tell you that I’ve been texting with some of her friends — some of her closest friends who have been with her since her days at Harvard university. Here’s what Judge Njeri Rutledge told me, “I’m filled with joy and hope despite” what she called “a disappointing supreme court decision that turns back 50 years of precedent. I am filled with pride that history is being made.” Another one of her friends, Antoinette Coakley, told me and she’s someone who was at the White House and who the judge actually called out by name as someone who supported her. She said: “We are honored here to stand in support of her. Today is a day of celebration, of jubilee, of a dream realized.” One other friend Kimberly Jenkins Robinson — she said to me: “Despite the challenging times we are living in, the world,” as she said, “is a bit brighter as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson becomes a justice. Her wisdom, dedication and integrity will strengthen our nation and our judiciary. My heart is filled with joy for her and her family.” So, there you have it, some of her closest friends reflecting on how happy they are for her, how excited they are for her, but also really nodding to the history that we were talking about, Lester, talking about the fact that they understand that their friend is taking this seat during a really, really fraught time in our nation’s history. 

(….)

12:14 p.m. Eastern

NEAL KATYAL: Judge Breyer retiring is a huge loss to the court. He’s obviously being replaced by someone’s amazing, but this is a guy who had so much humility and tried to bring the court together wherever he could. He was a law professor, but it’s actually the kind of extremists on the court who’s been acting like true law professors just writing things out and imposing their will on the nation. And so, this kind of change on the Supreme Court comes at a very fraught moment. We’ve had a week at the Supreme Court that is unlike any week that the Supreme Court’s had or any term since at least 1935. It is that conservative, not just on abortion, not just on guns, not just on climate, but so many other things and we’re going to be looking to Justice Jackson to try and lead the court out of this mess. But boy, she has her work cut out for them because this group of justices is acting in the most conservative and extreme way we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

(….)

12:16 p.m. Eastern

KATYAL: I also think if this term is any indication, the conservatives on the court are not as engage — are not as interested in engaging with their colleagues. They have a muscular majority and they are using it in very extreme ways. So, you know, if anyone can pull this off, it’s Justice Jackson in trying to moderate the extremist tendencies of this court, but it is a very difficult challenge.

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