Starr Gets Dowdified

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on May 18, 2005

The other day CBS News aired excerpts of an interview with Kenneth Starr, the former federal judge, solicitor general and Whitewater independent counsel, in which the network’s Gloria Borger claimed Starr had opposed efforts to end the filibuster of judicial nominees. From the transcript:

Borger: Many conservatives consider the fight over judges their political Armageddon. But conservative icon and former federal Judge Ken Starr says it’s gotten out of control.

Starr: This is a radical, radical departure from our history and from our traditions, and it amounts to an assault on the judicial branch of government.

Borger: Starr, who investigated the Monica Lewinsky case against President Clinton, tells CBS News that the Republican plan to end the filibuster may be unwise.

Starr: It may prove to have the kind of long-term boomerang effect, damage on the institution of the Senate that thoughtful senators may come to regret.

… Starr’s own explanation comes in an e-mail …:

In the piece that I have now seen, and which I gather is being lavishly quoted, CBS employed two snippets. The ‘radical departure’ snippet was specifically addressed–although this is not evidenced whatever from the clip–to the practice of invoking judicial philosophy as a grounds for voting against a qualified nominee of integrity and experience. I said in sharp language that that practice was wrong. I contrasted the current practice . . . with what occurred during Ruth Ginsburg’s nomination process, as numerous Republicans voted (rightly) to confirm a former ACLU staff lawyer. They disagreed with her positions as a lawyer, but they voted (again, rightly) to confirm her. Why? Because elections, like ideas, have consequences. . . . In the interview, I did indeed suggest, and have suggested elsewhere, that caution and prudence be exercised (Burkean that I am) in shifting/modifying rules (that’s the second snippet), but I likewise made clear that the “filibuster” represents an entirely new use (and misuse) of a venerable tradition. . . .

Our friends are way off base in assuming that the CBS snippets, as used, represent (a) my views, or (b) what I in fact said.

We can vouch for Starr’s explanation of the first snippet. Last September we appeared on a panel with him and the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, and Starr made exactly the same point, including the Ginsburg example.

[NOTE:  CBS has reportedly refused to provide Mr. Starr with a copy of the entire interview they did with him, thereby preventing him from proving that the clips aired were taken out of context and that CBS deliberately misrepresented his remarks.]