The nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson is an attempt to “defile” the supreme court and “humiliate and degrade” the US, the Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson claimed on Friday night.
If confirmed, Jackson, whose nomination was announced by Joe Biden earlier on Friday, will be the first Black woman on the court.
Carlson said Jackson was nominated “because of how she looks”. He said: “Do you want to live in that country? Most people don’t, of all colors. They think you should be elevated in America based on what you do, on the choices not on how you were born, not on your DNA, because that’s Rwanda.”
One columnist called his comments “the perfect distillation of white supremacy”.
Biden promised to put a Black woman on the court. Chosen from a short list of three, Jackson was introduced on Friday.
Biden called her a “proven consensus builder” with “a pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people”, and said: “For too long, our government, our courts, haven’t looked like America.”
If confirmed, the former public defender will replace the retiring Stephen Breyer. The balance of the court will stay 6-3 in favour of conservatives.
At the White House, Jackson paid tribute to Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman to be a federal judge, for her “steadfast and courageous commitment to equal justice under law“.
Carlson claimed Jackson’s appointment showed Biden was committed to undermining equality.
“Now maybe she’s great,” he said, “that’s not the point. The point is she was picked because of how she looks, so what does that tell you not about the nominee but about Joe Biden?
“It tells you that he is absolutely happy to defile a system built by other people over hundreds of years, this is the best system in the history of the world, and he is happy to destroy it. Doesn’t care at all.”
Carlson also claimed Jackson wasn’t “much of a jurist … not simply ignorant of the law” but also “a political activist”.
Pointing to a forthcoming case concerning affirmative action in college admissions, Carlson said most Americans “think you should be elevated … based on what you do … not on how you were born, not on your DNA, because that’s Rwanda.”
Jennifer Rubin, a conservative Washington Post columnist, called Carlson’s comments “the perfect distillation of white supremacy”.
Justices have been nominated on grounds of identity. Ronald Reagan promised to pick a woman and installed Sandra Day O’Connor. Donald Trump promised to pick a woman to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg and installed Amy Coney Barrett, a hardline Catholic conservative.
Most observers say Jackson, who was confirmed to the US court of appeals for the DC circuit with three Republican votes, is eminently qualified. On Friday, Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, pointed out that she has almost nine years of trial court experience, more than four current justices including the chief, John Roberts, combined.
Vladeck told CNN: “Only Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor among the current justices has trial court experience … and so I think what we’re really talking about here is diversity along so many axes, and from a nominee who really ticks every conceivable box.”
Vladeck also said it was “really hard to figure out what the line of attack would be against someone with Jackson’s credentials, her background, her experience, you know, her resumé”.
Republicans have been happy to offer previews.
Ted Cruz of Texas has complained about Biden’s promise to pick a Black woman and about how Democrats treated Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second pick who denied accusations of sexual assault. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who backed a candidate from his state, said the “radical left” was behind the Jackson pick.
Democrats will most likely not need Republican votes, even those (Graham, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) who voted to confirm Jackson last year. Democrats need only their own 50 senators and the casting vote of Kamala Harris, the vice-president.
Carlson pressed on.
“Let’s say you really didn’t care about the country you lead,” he said. “Let’s say you wanted to humiliate and degrade it and undermine its ancient institutions. What would you do?
“Well, you might take the single most important appointed position in the entire government and announce in public that you are filling that position on the basis of appearance. Not on the basis of skill or wisdom or fealty to the founding documents of the United States, but on the basis of the way the person looks.
“… That would send a very clear message that you don’t like the country you run and you don’t care about the institutions that its ancestors built.”
The supreme court was founded by and has been almost exclusively populated by white men. Of 115 justices, two have been Black men and five have been women.