Alito Media Battle Heats Up Ahead of Senate Hearings The battle over the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court has already begun -- at least over the airwaves. Groups supporting and opposing Alito are unleashing television, radio and Internet ads this holiday weekend, six weeks before his confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate.
NPR logo

Alito Media Battle Heats Up Ahead of Senate Hearings

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5026956/5026957" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Alito Media Battle Heats Up Ahead of Senate Hearings

Alito Media Battle Heats Up Ahead of Senate Hearings

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5026956/5026957" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Interpretation of the Constitution is at stake in a new arsenal of television ads. They're aiming to sway opinion about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. His Senate confirmation hearings are set to begin shortly after the holidays. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY reporting:

One battleground is New England. Two moderate Republican senators come from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and Lincoln Chafee, another GOP moderate, is from Rhode Island. Just to heighten the drama, Snowe and Chafee are up for re-election next year; that's why TV viewers in Maine and Rhode Island, along with cable news viewers around the country, have been seeing this ad attacking Samuel Alito's record.

(Soundbite of television ad; music)

Unidentified Announcer #1: As a judge, Alito ruled to make it easier for corporations to discriminate, even voted to approve the strip search of a 10-year-old girl. As a government lawyer, Alito wrote, `The Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion.'

OVERBY: Jim Jerdan(ph) is a spokesman for IndependentCourt.org, a coalition of liberal groups that want to stop Alito's nomination.

Mr. JIM JERDAN (IndependentCourt.org): Well, if the ads themselves seem powerful, it's simply because we are exposing views, legal rulings, legal opinions of Judge Alito's that are far from the mainstream.

OVERBY: Groups supporting Alito are using a good cop-bad cop approach. An organization called Progress for America has an ad featuring some of Alito's former law clerks.

(Soundbite of television ad; music)

Unidentified Announcer #2: Those who work for him know he'll make a great Supreme Court justice.

Unidentified Man: He's a fair judge; that's the first qualification.

OVERBY: At the same time a group called The Committee for Justice is attacking Alito's critics.

(Soundbite of television ad; music)

Unidentified Announcer #3: They support partial-birth abortion, sanction the burning of the American flag and even oppose pornography filters on public library computers. Do these groups represent you? If not, call your senators. Tell them to support Judge Alito.

OVERBY: The two pro-Alito groups say they haven't coordinated, and, in fact, they're using different strategies. Progress for America, saying nice things about Alito, is mainly trying to counter the liberal groups in New England. Its spokesman is Stuart Roy.

Mr. STUART ROY (Progress for America): From our perspective, Progress for America, we have no desire for an escalated battle. Our desire is to have good nominees, fair nominees confirmed to the Supreme Court that are picked by this president.

OVERBY: But the more aggressive Committee for Justice is on the air in conservative states that elect Democratic senators. The committee's director, Shawn Rushton, says they bought radio time for this holiday weekend of driving over the river and through the woods.

Mr. SHAWN RUSHTON (Committee for Justice): And, ideally, people will be listening to their radio on their way to see their families and talk over Thanksgiving dinner about these issues, and hopefully our points will be included.

OVERBY: Ad spending on both sides is still relatively small compared to what's expected later, but there has been one minor dust-up. FOX News refused to run the anti-Alito ad, saying its lawyers judged the ad inaccurate. A Fox spokeswoman said the network explained its position to The Associated Press and isn't commenting further. Jim Jerdan at IndependentCourt.org says Fox offered to re-edit the ad.

Mr. JERDAN: We declined to be a party to our own censorship, and so we declined that option.

OVERBY: Political observers expect the nomination battle to really take off after New Year's, with millions of dollars spent in advertising and grassroots mobilizing. Alito's confirmation hearings start January 9th.

Darrell West is a political scientist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He predicts that the ad rhetoric will escalate on both sides.

Mr. DARRELL WEST (Brown University): I don't think you can really attack too hard on a Supreme Court nomination because that's an issue that typically doesn't get so much attention. Voters are really focusing on the economy and job layoffs and the war in Iraq.

OVERBY: But if there are limits to what can be said, the liberal group People for the American Way may be pushing them already with this Web-only advertisement.

(Soundbite of ad; music)

Unidentified Announcer #4: A 10-year-old girl strip-searched without a valid search warrant. The judge who voted to uphold the strip search of a child? Samuel Alito.

OVERBY: The ad concludes with a clip of President Bush.

(Soundbite of ad; music)

Unidentified Announcer #4: So when George Bush calls Alito `mainstream' and Alito says he has no agenda, remember...

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me--you can't get fooled again.

Unidentified Announcer #4: We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

OVERBY: A spokesman for People for the American Way says the ad is being used now to energize the group's members, but later on it may be shortened and put on TV. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.