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Media Gush Over Chief Justice 'On the Side of History' With 'Clever Lawyering'

During NBC's noon et hour special coverage of the ObamaCare Supreme Court ruling, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams declared that Chief Justice John Roberts sided with liberals on the Court in upholding the unpopular law in order "to be on the side of history." Legal analyst Savannah Guthrie praised Roberts for having the wisdom of King Solomon: "I guess you'd call it a Solomonic decision." [Listen to the audio]

During special coverage on ABC, correspondent Terry Moran touted the ruling as "a clever piece of lawyering by the Chief Justice," explaining: "...the government can tax you if you don't buy insurance, it can't order you to buy insurance." World News anchor Diane Sawyer chimed in: "So you pay the fine if you, in essence, don't pay that tax." Moran laughably replied: "You still have a choice."

Speaking to Williams on NBC, Meet the Press host David Gregory confirmed the "historic" description of the decision: "...re-examining the legacy of Chief Justice John Roberts. I've spoken to conservatives today, Supreme Court lawyers, who say there will be a prevailing view that he got intimidated by the Left, that he wanted to be on the right side of history, as you suggested before."

Here are portions of the June 28 NBC coverage:

12:14PM ET

(...)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And Pete, it's notable that the Chief Justice, there's an expression that these chief justices often want to be on the side of history, so that in big rulings, they want to be in the majority and not in the dissent. And that's what happened today.

PETE WILLIAMS: Well, he was clearly in the majority. So that means he assigned the opinion to himself. It's interesting, obviously, this – this dispels any notion that this was going to be one of those decisions that divided along strictly partisan lines, on the usual 5-4 split. It was a 5-4 split, but not the usual way.

(...)

12:27PM

WILLIAMS: David Gregory watching all this from Washington. David, how does this change the discussion at your famous table on Sunday morning?

DAVID GREGORY: Well, you know, I'm focused on the politics and the palace intrigue. I know you're keenly interested in both. I mean, the discussion we have on Sunday, what I think will be a discussion all week, is how this plays into the presidential race. This issue is not going away. You heard it from Governor Romney, Republicans want to repeal what they call ObamaCare. That's going to be a big issue. As Savannah mentioned, the tax question, now that becomes part of this debate.

But there's the palace intrigue, and that is re-examining the legacy of Chief Justice John Roberts. I've spoken to conservatives today, Supreme Court lawyers, who say there will be a prevailing view that he got intimidated by the Left, that he wanted to be on the right side of history, as you suggested before. And that he gave this nod to the Right by saying, "I agree with you. It can't be upheld under the Commerce Clause. We can do it under Congress' taxing authority." There'll be a lot of debate about just what his role was in this case as we move forward.

WILLIAMS: And Savannah, they do call it, for good reason, the Roberts Court. This bears your stamp, this bears your imprimatur, just like the Warren Court for so many years.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, he put together this majority opinion, but it's a deeply fractured court. Yes, he sided with the liberals in his decision. But the liberals said that Congress had the power to do this under the Commerce Clause. And in some ways, it is a – I guess you'd call it a Solomonic decision. This Chief Justice Roberts trying to walk that line. In the end, the act is upheld, but for jurisprudence going forward, for other cases that examine the power of the federal government, that age-old question that our founders grappled with, the Chief Justice comes down on the side of his fellow conservatives. It's a big, heavy opinion we have right here. And we'll all be studying it for a long time to come.

(...)

-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.