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December 13, 2004

Total incompetence

Predictably, Bernard Kerik's abrupt withdrawal as Bush's nominee for Director of Homeland Security, ostensibly for nanny-type problems (but see the New York Daily News in particular for Kerik's other "difficulties"), has led our friends in the mainstream media to recall that some Clinton nominees had to withdraw for similar reasons.

Amazingly, though, some of the reporting is completely wrong.  I refer in particular to several stories (and there are dozens more out there - Google it yourself) stating that Lani Guinier withdrew as Clinton's nominee for head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division because she had failed to pay taxes for a domestic worker.

As anyone with even a few brain cells left should recall, however, Lani Guinier withdrew because some of her writings were wildly misrepresented, she was smeared as a "quota queen," and Clinton backed down in the face of right-wing pressure.  (It was not Bubba's finest moment.)  Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember anything about Guinier having "domestic worker" problems.  If you can find a source from the relevant time period (1993) referring to any such problems, I'd like to know about it.

This is really scary.  The Guinier business was extremely well-publicized at the time, and it was not that long ago.  If reporters and editors working for CBS and MSNBC (and many others) can't even get the basic facts about it right, can we really expect them to report intelligently and accurately about social security, income tax reform, judicial nominations, and a host of other important but complex issues coming down the pike?

UPDATE: The Washington Post has published a correction to its article on this subject (which originally did not even mention the controversy over Guinier's writings, lumping her in with Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood) which reads as follows:

A Dec. 12 article incorrectly said that Lani Guinier's nomination to head the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton was withdrawn because of a "nanny problem." There was no such problem, and the Clinton White House withdrew the nomination because of controversy over Guinier's legal writings.

Let us hope the rest of the gang follows suit.  Thanks to Volokh Conspiracy for noticing WaPo's confession.

Posted by David at 12:53 PM in Law and Lawyers, National | Permalink


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» How Quickly They Forget: from The Volokh Conspiracy

David Kravitz writes (go to his post for the links):

Predictably, Bernard Kerik's abrupt withdrawal as Bush's nomine... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 13, 2004 2:11:47 PM

» lani guinier could clear things up from f/k/a
Eugene and David make strong accusations without knowing the facts with certainty . . . they are willing to tar the entire mainstream press, when -- as with webloggers -- some [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 14, 2004 12:14:30 AM

» guinier: getting the story (and the correction) right from f/k/a
Prof. Guinier corrected the Post's misstatement concerning the cause of her dismissal. However, I'm disappointed that she did not choose to deny or confirm whether there had been unpaid Social Security [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 14, 2004 3:50:13 PM

» lani and the nanny from Blog: Derek Rose
Only the press is confusing Guinier with Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood. I went back on Nexis and read some of the stories from 1993, and Blue Mass Group is absolutely correct. [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 24, 2004 11:21:08 PM


Re David's comment: the Clinton appointee (nominee) withn the nanny problem was Zoe Baird of New York

Posted by: mike | Dec 13, 2004 4:33:00 PM

As I have posted at my website [http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2004/12/13#a2913], I have not been able to confirm the facts here, either. I did find, however, the following excerpt in Prof. Guinier's book Lift Every Voice : Turning a Civil Rights Setback Into a New Vision of Social Justice (1998 [http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684811456/ref=sib_rdr_dp/104-1569557-1267912]). At page 36, she is describing the very first press conference after her nomination was announced, and she says (emphasis added):

" the weight of my description of how prior administrations had tolerated actual examples of intentional discrimination was more than the reporters wanted to hear that day. Afterwards, my fellow nominees thanked me for what they took as a filibuster. From their perspective, I had successfully distracted the press, whose interest in nonpayment of Social Security taxes could not regain momentum"

So, the issue was out there, although I do not know the context and Guinier does not broach the topic again in the book. It would be great if Prof. Guinier could help us all with the facts -- if the mainstream press doesn't dig out some quotes by their morning editions to silence the gleeful naysayers.

Posted by: David Giacalone | Dec 14, 2004 12:23:43 AM

David Giacalone could help us with all the facts about his life too. Manistream papers mistated the reason for the withdrawal of Guinier's nomination, and after finally doing the research, have now retracted their mistakes. Giacalone has a vendetta or something - why? Did she give you a bad grade?

Posted by: johnq | Dec 16, 2004 10:41:56 AM

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