MSNBC, CNN, others flip out over GOP questioning of Ketanji Brown Jackson

Networks accused Republicans of racism, sexism and peddling QAnon conspiracy theories

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CNN, MSNBC and other media networks ripped into Republicans during coverage of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Senate hearings, accusing lawmakers of racism, sexism, and leveraging QAnon conspiracies to smear the Supreme Court nominee.

During the second day of Jackson’s hearings, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was asked by anchor Wolf Blitzer about Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., "trying to paint" Jackson as sympathetic to child porn offenders. 

"This is about appealing to the QAnon audience, this cult that is a big presence in Republican Party politics now, that is – where Senator Hawley is trying to ingratiate himself with that group and run for president with their support," Toobin responded.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson departs a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson departs a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.  (Photographer: Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Senior correspondent Abby Phillip quickly concurred with Toobin, adding that Hawley was utilizing a "dog whistle to the kind of QAnon-right."

MSNBC guest and Howard University School of Law Dean Danielle Holley-Walker echoed Phillip’s statement, arguing that Sen. Ted Cruz’s, R-Texas, line of questioning at the hearing was a "dog whistle" meant to stoke "racial politics." She also called other Republican questions "deeply offensive." 

Several other hosts and guests across the liberal media also attempted to tie Republican lawmakers’ concerns about Jackson’s sentencing decisions on child pornography offenses to the far-right conspiracy theorists of QAnon. 

On ABC’s "The View," co-host Sara Haines attempted to downplay Jackson’s record of sentencing sex offenders, arguing that there was debate on how to "fix" sex offender laws, which she boiled down to an example of a 17-year-old in a "consensual" relationship with an 18-year-old. She added that Hawley’s line of questioning played into QAnon conspiracies. 

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Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

"Every QAnon conspiracy known to man begins with pedophilia," Haines said. 

During an extensive monologue about Republicans and the Supreme Court, late- night host Jimmy Kimmel made a crude remark about Sen. Lindsey Graham involving child pornography.

He first played a remark by Graham in which he told Jackson that he had "no doubt" she found child pornography as "disgusting" as the rest of America. 

"If you’re listening to my voice today as you’re on a computer looking at child pornography, and you get caught, I hope your sentence is enhanced because the computer and the internet is feeding the beast here," Graham added.

"Wait. What kind of — how sexually defective do you have to be listening to Lindsey Graham’s voice and watching child pornography at the same time?," Kimmel quipped as the video ended. 

Meanwhile, MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson aggressively tore into Republicans, accusing them of smearing Jackson with QAnon conspiracies, expressing their "bigotry," and invoking racially charged language when he claimed lawmakers were engaging in "not a lynching" but a "flogging" of the Supreme Court nominee. 

"So the only thing they can do now is publicly flog this intelligent, capable, qualified Black woman to the best of their ability with every single crazy QAnon conspiracy they can come up with," Johnson said. "They’re going to use it to express their bigotry about trans rights, they’re going to use her to express their bigotry in their QAnon conspiracies and their anti-Muslim sentiments."

MSNBC far-left host Joy Reid pushed her own conspiracy on Thursday when she claimed, without evidence, that Republican lawmakers wanted to "perform" for the QAnon "audience" at Jackson’s hearing in an effort to secure their votes for future elections.  

"What I saw today was the performance of QAnon," she said.

Later in the segment, Reid told colleague Chris Hayes that "all [Republican lawmakers] want" is to "yell at a Black lady."

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Reid, invoking a tweet that she had made earlier that day, said Thursday the treatment of Jackson by Republican lawmakers was "repugnant" and likened their lines of questioning to someone "following a Black shopper through the store." 

Claims of racism aimed at the GOP did not end there. 

In perhaps the most incendiary segment on Jackson’s hearing, MSNBC political strategist and commentator Chai Komanduri was so outraged by Cruz asking Jackson about critical race theory that he likened it to a "hate crime."

"[I]t's really ugly. Quite frankly, it looked like I saw Ted Cruz commit a hate crime, in that hearing room. It was McCarthyism at its worst," he said.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The next day on the channel, New York Magazine senior correspondent Irin Carmon called Cruz’s questioning a "really disgraceful display." She also claimed Republicans were attempting to "bait" Jackson into an emotional outburst, so they could peg her as an "angry Black woman."

ABC politics reporter Brittany Shepherd appeared to mirror Carmon’s comments that same day when she hypothesized that Republican lawmakers run the risk of "getting stereotyped" as a party pushing a "narrative of the angry Black woman."

On two separate occasions, former National Bar Association President CK Hoffler insinuated Jackson’s hearing and Republican questions aimed at the nominee were really about "sexism and racism."

Several other media personalities continued throughout the week to express contempt at Republican lawmakers and their treatment of Jackson. 

"The View" co-hosts Sunny Hostin and Whoopi Goldberg both asserted that Republicans were attacking Jackson as a means to "air their grievances" about Democrats and prior Supreme Court nomination hearings. Goldberg earlier said that Republicans used their time at the hearing to "b----."

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Following coverage of the hearings on CBS, Gayle King said it was "painful to watch" how Jackson was treated, and CNN’s Brianna Keilar said Republicans hijacked the hearing and asked "questionable questions" about the nominee. She later asked her guest whether Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., was racist and accused her of playing into "the worst of internet conspiracy theories."