STUDY: Lying Networks Spin Retiring Stephen Breyer as a ‘Pragmatic’ ‘Moderate’ ‘Centrist’

When Joe Biden announces his new Supreme Court nominee in February, you can probably be sure of one thing: Media outlets will call this person a “moderate.”

The network newscasts are pushing that same (false) talking point on Stephen Breyer after he announced his retirement from the Court. From the evening of January 26 through the January 27th morning shows, every single newscast pushed some variation of calling the deeply liberal justice a “centrist,” “pragmatist” or “moderate.” 

On Wednesday’s World News Tonight, Terry Moran insisted, “On the Court, Breyer has been a centrist and a pragmatic justice, seeking ways to bridge the ideological divides and focusing on the real world consequences of the Court’s rulings.” 

On that same show, anchor David Muir rewrote the ardently pro-abortion, anti-gun control Breyer’s legacy: “Justice Breyer nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, confirmed by a vote of 87-9. His nickname was “a” Consensus seeker who has a pragmatic perspective of compromise.” 



On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, Jan Crawford allowed that Breyer is a “liberal,” but still offered the “pragmatic” label: “Breyer has been a pragmatic justice, a defender of civil rights and a staunch opponent of the death penalty.”

This pragmatism was born where? It was not in regard to abortion. Breyer was an unwavering supporter of any pro-life legislation. He was a minority vote on 2008 Heller vs. D.C., which established the Second Amendment as an individual rights. On economic issues, the Justice allowed eminent domain to go wild as the key fifth vote in 2005’s Kelo v. City of New London.

The truth is that the New York TimesIn 2014, Breyer voted with Ruth Bader Ginsburg 88% of the time. Sonia Sotomayor? They agreed on 88 percent. Ballotpedia identifies him as the Court’s second most liberal justice after Sotomayor. Moderate? Centrist? Hardly.  

On Thursday’s Today, Pete Williams tried to have it both ways, calling Breyer a “moderate-to-liberal justice.” Yet all the examples he cited were… liberal: 

Stephen Breyer was nominated by President Bill Clinton and has been a Supreme Court justice for almost 28 years. He is a moderate-to liberal justice. Breyer has been an advocate for abortion rights and affirmative action, and he is a strong opponent to the death penalty. 

It was the night before that he repeated it on the NBC Nightly News. Williams called Breyer a “moderate liberal.” But again, here are the examples listed. Do they sound moderate? 

He was the one who wrote the opinion of court that struck down a law in state banning some late-term abortions. He was a supporter of affirmative action, and other civil rights legislations. He also stated that the death penalty was likely unconstitutional in an eloquent dissent from 2015. 

Stephen Breyer is an extremely liberal Supreme Court Justice. To use any other definition would be lying to Americans. Biden will announce his nominee in February, so be prepared for even more lies. This person is sure to be “moderate,” but in name only.  

The rewriting of history on CBS was sponsored by Allstate,  on ABC by Fidelity and on NBC by Liberty Mutual. You can click the links below to tell them what you think. 

Here are some partial transcripts. Click “expand” to read more. 

NBC Nightly News

7:15 PM

LESTER HOLT : President Biden is now the first person to be nominated to the bench by NBC News. 


PETE WILLIAMS [Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s]Death allowed President Trump to appoint Amy Coney Barrett. This gave the court a solid, 6-3 conservative majority.

WILLIAMS: Bill Clinton nominated Breyer, then a federal judge in Boston, to the Supreme Court  in 1994. He was confirmed in 87-9. Breyer became a moderate liberal on the supreme Court, quickly establishing himself as one. Breyer believed in practical interpretation of the Constitution, and that it should change with the times. 

WILLIAMS : He wrote an opinion in the court securing the repeal of a law that prohibits certain late-term abortions. He believed in affirmative action, and supported civil rights. In 2015, he criticized the death penalty for America’s arbitrary nature and said it probably was unconstitutional. 


World News Tonight

DAVID MURIR: We are awaiting official confirmation from the justice. At 83, he is the oldest supreme Court justice and the senior member of liberal wing. He has long been a strong defender for a nonpartisan court. 

MUIR: Justice Breyer nominated by president Bill Clinton in 1994, confirmed by a vote of 87-9. His reputation was that of a consensus seeker who had a pragmatic view and could compromise. 

MORAN: Justice Breyer (83) is currently on the court. He was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and has been there for 27 years. Breyer, a centrist, and pragmatic justice has served on the court. She sought ways to reconcile ideologies and focused on real-world consequences of her court decisions. 

CBS Evening News

JANCRAWFORD. Justice Stephen Breyer (the court’s most prominent liberal) made the widely-anticipated decision. It gave President Biden the opportunity to make his first Supreme Court nominee and fulfilled a campaign promise. 

CRAWFORD – Nominated by President Clinton in 1994, Breyer is a practical justice, an advocate for civil rights, and a strong opponent to the death penalty. 



PETE WILLIAMS. Stephen Breyer was nominated by President Bill Clinton and has been a Supreme Court justice for almost 28 years, serving as a liberal to moderate justice. He has been an advocate for abortion rights and affirmative action, and has been consistent against the death penalty over the last six years. 

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