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ABC Hits Reverse Discrimination Case From Left; CBS Skips It Entirely

Following up on Monday's Supreme Court ruling in favor of New Haven firefighters who were denied promotion after no black applicants passed a written exam, ABC's Bob Woodruff on Tuesday's Good Morning America approached the decision from a liberal perspective, wondering if "the ruling really make future workplace discrimination harder to prove" - as opposed to wondering whether the ruling will protect workers from discriminatory tactics from employers seeking to achieve nebulous goals such as workplace "diversity."

Woodruff also asked correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg whether the ruling could "tarnish" the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who was part of a three-judge panel that ruled against the firefighters.

Greenburg stressed the arguments of Sotomayor's supporters: "Oh, Bob, right away we saw critics say this was a clear rebuke to Judge Sotomayor, since she had ruled against those white firefighters. But, her supporters said, 'Look, she was just following the law,' and they pointed out that the Court, the Court itself, was deeply divided. The four liberal justices would have agreed with her, including that justice she's been nominated to replace, David Souter."

For its part, the CBS Early Show ignored the decision (Monday's Evening News cast it as a matter of "conservative" justices vs. "civil rights leaders"). On NBC's Today, correspondent Pete Williams filed a report similar to the one he presented on Monday's Nightly News, balancing a critic of Sotomayor with a supporter, although neither conservative judicial activist Wendy Long nor Marge Baker of the liberal People for the American Way were assigned an ideological label.

Here's a bit more of how ABC and NBC covered the Supreme Court decision and its impact on Judge Sotomayor's nomination, starting with ABC's Good Morning America (as transcribed by the MRC's Scott Whitlock). Each of these stories aired during the newscasts' 8am ET hour.

BOB WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court has ruled in a much-anticipated reverse discrimination case. In a 5-4 decision, the justices sided with white and Hispanic firefighters in Connecticut who claimed they were unfairly denied promotions because of their race. Jan Crawford Greenburg covers the court. And, Jan, will this ruling really make future workplace discrimination harder to prove?

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Well, Bob, this could have a sweeping impact on the workforce when it comes to race and hiring and promotions. Experts that I talked to yesterday said it will make it much harder for employees to prove some of these traditional forms of discrimination, especially if they're in occupations where employment tests are pretty standard, like police or fire or construction. They said it will be harder for employees to show that those tests are discriminatory. Bob?

WOODRUFF: And also, the nomination. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was on an appeals court when she ruled against the firefighters. Could this reversal actually tarnish her nomination, do you think?

GREENBURG: Oh, Bob, right away we saw critics say this was a clear rebuke to judge Sotomayor since she had ruled against those white firefighters. But, her supporters said, "Look, she was just following the law." And they pointed out that the court, the court itself, was deeply divided. The four liberal justices would have agreed with her, including that justice she's been nominated to replace, David Souter. But, you're going to hear a lot about this case in her upcoming confirmation hearings next month. Bob?

WOODRUFF: Thanks, Jan. And a clarification: We should say, during our broadcast, Monday, we implied the black firefighters were promoted. As we reported, that was not the case.

Now, the story from NBC's Today:

ANN CURRY: Monday's Supreme Court ruling in a reverse discrimination case is expected to affect Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. That's because the Supreme Court overruled a decision that involved her. NBC's Justice correspondent Pete Williams is at the Supreme Court now with more on this story. Hey, Pete, good morning.

PETE WILLIAMS: Ann, good morning to you. The Justices did overturn that decision by Judge Sotomayor on how to achieve racial diversity without violating the rights of white employees.

The ruling is a big legal win for white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. They sued when the city tossed out the results of a written test that would have made them eligible for promotion, but none of the black firefighters.

FRANK RICCI, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: The exams were valid, and if you work hard, you can succeed in America.

WILLIAMS: The city said it feared the black firefighters would have sued unless it threw out the tests. But the Supreme Court said that was not a good enough reason. By a vote of 5-4, the Court said once the rules for promotion are set, employers can't change them simply for fear of a discrimination lawsuit.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor voted in a lower court decision in favor of New Haven. The Supreme Court's reversal of that ruling, her opponents say, raises questions about her qualifications.

WENDY LONG, SOTOMAYOR OPPONENT: It tells us that she was wrong on the law, that in fact the white firefighters were discriminated against, contrary to what she said.

WILLIAMS: But her supporters said the Supreme Court set a new legal standard.

MARGE BAKER, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: There's absolutely no way that she could have anticipated that that would happen, or made a decision based on her anticipation that that might happen.

WILLIAMS: The Court also said it will take the unusual step of hearing a case in late summer, on September 9 - raising the stakes for getting her confirmed by then, Ann.

CURRY: Alright, Pete Williams this morning. Pete, thanks for your reporting.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.