WASHINGTON – FOX News is refusing to air an ad critical of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, citing its lawyers' contention that the spot is factually incorrect.
A spokesman for the groups sponsoring the ad said the network's decision reflects the political right's effort to shield President Bush's choice for the high court.
The ad says that as an appellate court judge, Alito has "ruled to make it easier for corporations to discriminate ... even voted to approve strip search of a 10-year-old girl." Referring to a document Alito wrote in 1985 while seeking a job in the Reagan administration, it quotes him as saying that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
The groups backing the ad include the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, People for The American Way and abortion rights organizations.
Bush nominated Alito to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring. Alito's confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee are to begin Jan. 9. In a letter to the nominee Tuesday, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the panel's top Democrat, pressed Alito to complete quickly a background questionnaire, saying delays would make it hard for the panel to prepare for early January hearings.
In a 2004 decision, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in the case of four police officers who faced a lawsuit after the search of a mother and her 10-year-old daughter in the course of executing a search warrant for narcotics.
The court said "searching Jane and Mary Doe for evidence beyond the scope of the warrant and without probable cause violated their clearly established Fourth Amendment rights." The court pointed out that "a search warrant for a premises does not constitute a license to search everyone inside."
Alito dissented in the case, saying the best reading of the warrant is that it authorized the search of anyone found on the premises. He added that even if the warrant didn't explicitly give that authorization, "a reasonable police officer could certainly have read the warrant as doing so."
Paul Schur, a spokesman for FOX News, said that according to the network's lawyers, the ad is "factually incorrect and we've given them an opportunity to fix it."
Said Jim Jordan, a spokesman for the groups: "The entire right wing establishment, from Pat Robertson to Jerry Falwell to FOX News, has circled the wagons around Sam Alito."
Asked about changing the ad in response to FOX News' request, Jordan said, "Roger Ailes doesn't get to edit our ads." Ailes is chairman of FOX News.
Officials said the ad would run on cable television news programs nationally as well as in Maine and Rhode Island, two states that have three moderate Republican senators.
They declined to say how much would be spent, but officials at rival organizations placed the expenditure at less than $65,000, an amount unlikely to make a significant impact.