Civil Rights Coalition Outraged by Biased Reporting of “60 Minutes” Reporter

Media 03.29,04

WASHINGTON – Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition with over 180 member organizations, sent a letter to Don Hewitt, executive producer of CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” to express outrage over Mike Wallace’s one-sided portrayal of the debate surrounding the nomination of Charles Pickering to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“Far from a balanced piece of journalism, Mr. Wallace’s segment unfairly distorted arguments put forth by Pickering’s opponents; failed to accurately convey the range of serious concerns that many Americans have with this nomination; and chose to highlight only those aspects of Pickering’s record supporting his thesis that opposition to Pickering’s confirmation is thin and that the criticism is exaggerated,” stated Wade Henderson, executive director of LCCR.

LCCR and over 84 national, state, and local organizations opposed Charles Pickering’s confirmation because his record as a district court judge and as a state senator shows his hostility to civil and constitutional rights. Further, throughout Pickering’s career, he has demonstrated a commitment to the reversal of a number of these rights, for which LCCR and its member organizations have fought for more than 50 years. The nomination and recess appointment of Pickering is another example of President Bush’s determination to pack the federal courts with right-wing extremist judges insensitive to issues affecting the environment, persons of color, women, individuals with disabilities, gays and lesbians, older Americans, workers, and consumers.

“Most significantly,” Henderson continued, “the ’60 Minutes’ piece, rather than discussing the arguments of proponents and detractors forthrightly, instead set up a straw-man: the notion that opposition to Pickering is rooted in charges that he is a racist. While framing the debate in this way might make good television, it is not, in fact, any part of the real debate over this confirmation. The real question is whether Pickering’s record warrants elevation to the Fifth Circuit.”

“It would have been good to see a serious journalistic piece that looked objectively at this record, rather than one that distorted and caricatured the opposition, and therefore diminished the importance of this debate. LCCR hopes that in the future, we can rely on CBS to base their stories on the facts, rather than choosing their facts based on the story they want to tell,” he concluded.