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Megyn Kelly And Imbalanced Fox News Panel Distort Objections To Mrs. Clarence Thomas' Tea-Party Group

Reported by Ellen - March 15, 2010 -

It was bad enough that Megyn Kelly tried to pawn off her conservative and conservative-leaning panel as “fair and balanced” but she couldn’t even get the issue that everyone was supposedly there to discuss: concerns about the wife of Clarence Thomas’ tea-party-linked lobbying group. Instead of acknowledging that Thomas had just voted in a case that benefitted a group his wife had just launched or was about to launch, Kelly and both guests focused on whether the left was just attacking Virginia Thomas because of her political views. With video.

Kelly’s teaser in advance of the discussion set the biased tone in advance: “Well, her husband is no stranger to controversy but now Virginia Thomas is seeing her views attacked, in part because her husband is a Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. Is that fair?” Kelly’s voice rose in indignation as she “asked,” in an unmistakable signal to viewers as to what she thought the answer was. And just in case they still didn’t get it, she brought on two guests who more or less agreed with her that it was all about partisanship.

When it was time for the actual discussion, Kelly introduced it by saying that Thomas “has launched a tea-party-linked group. It is a non-profit, lobbying group that embraces conservative core principles. Some on the left are very upset about this. So do they have a point or is it just much ado about nothing?”

Kelly, an attorney, somehow overlooked the crux of the problem with Thomas’ group. She formed it in January, the same month her husband decided the “Citizens United” case that loosened restrictions for corporate donors to groups like Thomas’. And, it just so happens that, according to the L.A. Times, Thomas’ group plans to accept corporate cash.

When I did a Google search, “virginia thomas tea party,” to find out who the lefties are to whom Kelly referred in her introduction, the only two sources I uncovered on the first page were Democratic Underground and Fox News’ own Alan Colmes. Both raised the issue of her husband’s Supreme Court vote benefitting Thomas. In fact, Colmes noted a possible previous conflict of interest with the couple: Thomas had been recruiting staff for a possible George W. Bush administration as her husband was hearing the case that would decide the election.

But instead of booking Colmes or someone else with genuine concerns about these issues, Kelly hosted the conservative Stephen Hayes and Dan Gerstein, a columnist for Forbes and former staffer for Sen. Joe Lieberman, who could barely muster up any enthusiasm for the side he was supposedly representing.

A banner going along with the "partisan" meme read, “Virginia Thomas under fire for ties to tea party linked group” as the guests were introduced.

Gerstein called it “unusual” for the wife of a Supreme Court Justice to be “this prominent” in “partisan politics” before suggesting that the left's problems with her advocacy were simply partisan. “In today’s hyper-polarized environment, it’s sort of natural that people would… glom onto that and get all hot and bothered.”

He added that the experts he had read said Thomas had a “First Amendment right” to her activities. “The tougher question is, is this appropriate? Is it going to affect the way people view the impartiality of her husband.” Gerstein did not offer any answers to his own question.-

Not surprisingly, Hayes did not pussy foot around his side of the argument. He called the argument that judge’s wives should abstain from political activities “absurd.” And, as is typical with Fox News’ conservative pundits, he took some gratuitous swipes at the left. “It’s ironic to me that these claims are coming from those on the left who have long championed a feminist agenda.”

Gerstein sat silent. Finally, Kelly said she didn’t understand the left’s argument and asked him to flesh it out for her.

Gerstein once again minimized the left’s position, this time by suggesting that it was all a legal technicality. Without noting the coincidental timing of Justice Thomas’ Citizens United decision and the launching of his wife’s group, Gerstein called it a “classic case in legal circles of raising the appearance of a conflict of interest.” Then, he immediately added, “I’m not as bothered by it as some people might be.” He said that the real issue was not Justice Thomas but that Mrs. Thomas’ organization “won’t disclose where they’re getting their money from.” Then, further minimizing the left’s objections, he said, “That is probably the most legitimate criticism… and I think she could make a lot of that go away if she does disclose where the money’s coming from.”

Hayes dismissed even that concern and went on to attack another of Fox News’ fave targets. “Why (has) the Los Angeles Times (which reported the story)… decided to scrutinize Virginia Thomas? … I wouldn’t think this is news.”