The high-priced air war over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. heats up this Thanksgiving week in about a dozen states, and Fox News is refusing to air one spot it says is factually incorrect.
Conservatives are running pro-Alito ads in Republican red states such as Nebraska and the Dakotas, mainly represented in Congress by Democrats. Liberals are running anti-Alito ads in Democratic blue states such as Maine and Rhode Island, which have Republican senators.
The 30-second anti-Alito ad Fox News declined targets Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who are all pro-choice and represent fairly liberal electorates.
“As a government lawyer, Alito wrote, ‘the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion,’” said the ad backed by the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, People for the American Way (PFAW) and abortion-rights organizations.
“The right wing has already taken over the West Wing,” the commercial concludes. “Don’t let them take over your Supreme Court.”
Paul Schur, a spokesman for Fox, said that according to the network’s lawyers, the ad, which also says Judge Alito “even voted to approve strip-search of a 10-year-old girl,” is “factually incorrect, and we’ve given them an opportunity to fix it.”
Fox says Judge Alito issued a dissenting opinion and did not “vote” to approve a search.
In a 2004 ruling by the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Judge Alito dissented in a search warrant case, saying the best reading of the warrant was that it authorized the search of anyone found on the premises. The court ruled police officers violated the rights of a mother and her 10-year-old daughter searched in the course of executing a search warrant for narcotics.
Jim Jordan, a spokesman for the group, said: “The entire right-wing establishment, from Pat Robertson to Jerry Falwell to Fox News, has circled the wagons around Sam Alito.”
He said the network’s decision reflects the political right’s effort to shield President Bush’s choice for the high court. The ad eventually will run on cable-television news programs nationally. IndependentCourt.org, which produced the ad, said it has been accepted by CNN and by network affiliates at the state level.
“It’s not about ideology, it’s about quality and honesty,” Irena Briganti, a Fox News spokeswoman, said of the decision to reject the ad.
She noted that Fox refused to run one ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in which Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was called a traitor and recently turned down a spot from the Republican National Committee because of content and its use of excerpts from other news programs.
Mr. Chafee faces a tough re-election next year and has made skeptical comments about Judge Alito. Mrs. Snowe is also up for re-election, but her seat is considered fairly safe and Miss Collins isn’t up until 2008. Both Mainers have said they are undecided about the nomination, but have praised his legal background.
Meanwhile, conservatives are running ads that not only praise Judge Alito, but also attack those attacking him.
An ad by the conservative Committee for Justice notes that the leading liberal group running ads against Judge Alito is the PFAW.
“Their agenda is clear,” intones the announcer, referring to some of the groups’ other policy agendas. “They want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and are fighting to redefine traditional marriage. They support partial-birth abortion, sanction the burning of the American flag, and even oppose pornography filters on public library computers.”
These ads are running all week in Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia — all states carried by President Bush, but having at least one Democratic senator.
Most of the Democrats hailing from these states have stayed out of the fray as best they can. Others were among the first on the White House’s call list for Judge Alito to meet with since his nomination.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.