ABC, CBS Broadcast Their Own Dissenting Opinions on Affirmative Action

CBS Mornings and ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) offered dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action ruling Friday morning under the guise of objective journalism. CBS’s Tony Dokoupil strategized about avoiding the Court’s ruling by including race in essays, and Prairie View A&M University president Ruth Simmons likened the ruling to Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Both morning shows disapproved of the “decades of precedent” the courts allegedly flouted but then switched to discussing the benefits of overturning other cases a few moments later.

Appearing on CBS, Simmons, one of Harvard’s defendants, inferred that the case resembled Plessy V. Ferguson. If anything, it more closely reflected affirmative action, which also was based on differential treatment for certain races. Yet, Simmons offered the comparison as a solace to the journalists that it could be overturned:

Gayle King responded that she felt they were losing, giving up even the appearance of objectively reporting both sides. For example, she touted President Biden lashing out at the Court: “There were protests outside the court after this was announced, and President Biden quickly condemned the ruling declaring, quote, ‘This is not a normal court.’”

On GMA, Eva Pilgrim asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to advise future college students who would no longer be able to count on race:

Simmons disagreed with a similar question on CBS, suggesting colleges could still take race into account, even with the new ban on affirmative action.

Tony Dokoupil responded, “So Dr. Simmons, that’s a great point. I was going to bring it up myself.”

CBS and GMA made their opinions on affirmative action excessively clear for viewers. Their news coverage morphed into a discussion on how the law could be broken to consider race in admissions still, and they villainized opponents of affirmative action. Their news coverage became so reactionary that it was news in and of itself. 

CBS Mornings
7:00 AM Eastern

GAYLE KING: The Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action in college admissions, overturning decades of precedent. We’ll have the latest reaction. 


7:03 AM
KING: We’re going to begin, of course, with the fallout from a momentous ruling by the Supreme Court. By now, you’ve heard all about it. The nation’s high court struck down affirmative action in college admissions. It was a six to three decision yesterday, and the Justices ruled this, ‘that race cannot be a factor in deciding who gets into school.’ 

There were protests outside the court after this was announced, and President Biden quickly condemned the ruling declaring, quote, ‘This is not a normal court.’ Our chief Washington correspondent, that’s Major Garrett, is at the Supreme Court with more on this story. Major, there are passionate conversations on both sides of this issue. Good morning to you. 

MAJOR GARRET: Good morning, Gayle. Good morning, everyone. This ruling reverses history of precedent and policies more so than anything that the Court has done since reversing Roe V. Wade last summer. Former President Trump, who appointed three justices to this court, called the ruling a great day for America. Meanwhile, outraged Democrats describe the decision as a fateful step backwards. 

[Cuts to video]

Outside the Supreme Court, students and civil rights leaders protested Thursday’s historic ruling to throw out race-based affirmative action. The White House President Biden slammed the Court’s conservative majority. 


Still, the Supreme Court’s decision was widely praised by Republicans, including many 2024 presidential hopefuls.


Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Roberts wrote that universities have concluded wrongly that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin, our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice. 

In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the court majority of rolling back decades of precedent and momentous progress, writing: ‘Despite the Court’s unjustified exercise of power, the opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound.’ The decision also exposed deep personal and ideological divisions within the court. 

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman to serve on the high court, wrote in her dissent that, “Deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” 

Clarence Thomas responded, quote, ‘Justice Jackson uses her broad observations about statistical relationships between race and select measures of health, wealth, and wellbeing to label all blacks as victims.’ 


Edward Bloom, President of Students for Fair Admissions, brought the case on behalf of students like Calvin Yang, who was denied admission to Harvard.


But, UNC student and president of the UNC Young Democrats, T.J. White, says this is a huge setback for students of color, like himself. 


7:30 AM
KING: We’re glad that you’re here. What does this decision mean on a practical basis – realistically for college admissions going forward? We know what it says; what does it mean to you? 


7:31 AM
TONY DOKOUPIL: Mr. Secretary, why are you and the administration so committed to this particular tool to address inequality given that it doesn’t poll all that well, at best public opinion even among those likely to benefit is lukewarm, and there are nine states ranging from California down to Florida who say – who have already banned affirmative action. So given that state of public opinion and public thought, why is the administration so committed to this tool in particular? 


7:33 AM
DOKOUPIL: But Mr. Secretary, the voters seem to be saying to you, to their leaders across the country, elected and otherwise, that they want this push for equality to start earlier. And that’s kind of on you as secretary of education. Can’t you fix this problem before it gets to college admissions? 


7:34 AM
NATE BURLESON: Mr. Secretary, Nate here. The Supreme Court decision will not apply to military academies. What message does that send to minorities? 


7:34 AM

KING: The ruling is — was based on you can’t make a decision based on race, but nothing was done about legacy students. You know, there are so many students are getting into schools that some would argue are not qualified just because your family’s name is on the building, your family has donated a lot of money. Some could call that also discrimination in reverse. What do you say about that? 


8:16:59 AM
BURLESON: We return now to that huge Supreme Court decision overturning decades of precedent on affirmative action in higher education. The majority ruled yesterday colleges and universities cannot consider race as a factor in admissions decisions. The ruling said affirmative action cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Ruth Simmons was the first black president of an ivy league school and is now a president’s distinguished fellow at Rice University and a senior adviser to the president of Harvard University. She testified in Harvard’s defense of affirmative action. Dr. Simmons, good morning. How are you doing? 

RUTH SIMMONS: Good morning. How are you? 

BURLESON: I’m good. I’m good. Thank you for joining us. Now, you argue that the ending of affirmative action won’t make college admissions fairer. What do you think the impact of all of this will be? 

SIMMONS:  Well, I think it simply means we’ll get to work once again to try to deliver the justice that we’ve been seeking for a long time. Keep in mind that justices used their judgment, and we know from Plessy V. Ferguson as well as many other cases before the Supreme Court that the cases have sometimes — their judgments have been overturned. So this is a long struggle, and we have to be in it for the length of the struggle, not because we are winning or losing at any given time. 

KING:  Well, the supporters, Dr. Simmons, feel that right now, we are losing. I think it would help if you would put in context what affirmative action really, really is. Some people think affirmative action means you’re not qualified, but your race makes you qualified when the reality, I think, is you are qualified, and race is just something that should be considered like you’re an athlete or you play a musical instrument. So – 

SIMMONS: Yeah, yeah. 

KING: So, when will we know – Yeah, could you put it in context what it really means, and when will people think now is the time? Because the times we’re living in now doesn’t seem like it is the time. 

SIMMONS:  Well, I think, again, perhaps owing to my age, I take the long view here. And that means that affirmative action, as carried out by Harvard, was very much misunderstood, I think, by the justices. Harvard tries to bring — shape a class bringing in many, many elements. One of which may have been race, but not ever the deciding factor. That is something that is the cause for the burnishing of the Harvard brand. Everybody wants to get into Harvard, why? Because it is — it has used this system of admission to judge people on the basis of everything they bring to the University. 

So that is something that I think Justice Roberts’ remarks leaves room for, actually. People haven’t paid much attention to that, but listen to what he said. He said that we should look at students based on their experiences as individuals, and what does he qualify as experiences? The challenges faced, the skills built, the lessons learned. 

So we’re still able to consider a diversity of factors, and how do you erase a person’s race? You can’t. So I — I am not given to seeing this as being as detrimental as many. 

DOKOUPIL: So Dr. Simmons, that’s a great point. I was going to bring it up myself. And I think the follow-up naturally becomes what is your advice, what’s the practical takeaway for a 17-year-old thinking about applying to college next year after this ruling? 

SIMMONS:  This is the single most important point for me, and that is we don’t want young people to be discouraged by all of the storm and drong [sic] they’re hearing after this decision. We want them to continue to concentrate on their work. Work hard in their courses, of course, but be — learn to become a total human being. Be involved in activities. Be involved in doing good for your community. Be involved in developing all of who you are as a human being, and admissions people will see that in addition to everything else you bring. 

DOKOUPIL: All right. Dr. Ruth Simmons, thank you very much. Prior president of three very different universities, the very top of your field. We couldn’t get better perspective this morning. We really appreciate it. 

SIMMONS: Thank you.

Good Morning America


7:01:02 AM Eastern

MARY BRUCE: Landmark ruling: The Supreme Court striking down affirmative action, overturning decades of precedent. The reaction this morning and what it means for colleges, universities, and students around the country. 



EVA PILGRIM: Joining us now is education secretary Miguel Cardona. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. Let’s just start right into it. The president has given you the mission to figure out how, after this ruling, schools can still promote diversity. So I’m curious, what is the plan? 


7:14:45 AM

PILGRIM: The court said you can still mention race in your college essay; they didn’t ban that, but they were pretty clear you can’t get around this by using some kind of back door like giving more weight to application essays or other factors. For students out there right now who are trying to figure out what to do. What do you say to them?


7:15:28 AM
PILGRAM: After all is said and done, what do you anticipate the impact will be on minority enrollment at these selective universities?


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