Commentary

Fact-Checking the Fact Check: PolitiFact Falsely Claims Republicans Tried to 'Rig' the Supreme Court

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PolitiFact is a nonpartisan source for fact-checking elected officials, right? Let’s fact-check that.

“You didn’t see Republicans when we had control of the Senate try to rig the game. You didn’t see us try to pack the court,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said in a news conference on Thursday, criticizing a Democratic initiative to increase the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to thirteen.

PolitiFact snatched Cruz’s assertion that Republicans didn’t try to rig the game and slammed him with a glaring “false” rating on its Truth-O-Meter, effectively arguing themselves that Republicans did “rig the game.”

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But is Cruz’s claim actually false?

Only if you buy the left’s attempt to redefine what the rules of the game actually are.

PolitiFact essentially argued that Republican efforts to block the confirmation of Merrick Garland just before the 2016 election and GOP support for Amy Coney Barrett just before the 2020 election amounted to “rigging the game.”

“Republicans treated Garland’s nomination and Barrett’s nomination differently because they held the Senate majority and were able to exercise their power in ways that benefited their party’s goals,” PolitiFact said. “But that doesn’t mean they weren’t rigging the game. There was no consistency to the way they handled the two nominations — the approaches were exactly opposite.”

Do you think Republicans tried to rig the Supreme Court confirmation process?

Basically, the site would have you believe that treating liberal and conservative nominees differently means Republicans unfairly bent the rules.

PolitiFact was also quick to point out that Cruz joined his Republican colleagues in blocking any nominee put forth by then-President Barack Obama and that he declared the 2016 election a “referendum on the Supreme Court.”

It’s essential to note that there’s no mention of any push to expand the court — the prime example of trying to rig the game.

Rejecting or supporting nominees is in no way the same as artificially creating a Supreme Court majority, which is exactly what Democrats are trying to do.

Republicans weren’t breaking the rules when they treated Garland and Barrett differently. In fact, they were following the rules.

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Cruz spokesman Steve Guest said the same: “Absolutely nothing was rigged by Republicans. Presidents nominate judges. The Senate gives or withholds advice and consent. Those are the rules and Republicans followed them.”

Though PolitiFact painted these words as an attempt to cover for Republican hypocrisy, Guest’s claim is absolutely correct and would be even if Democrats had been in power and behaved in the same manner.

It should be obvious that Republicans would oppose a progressive Supreme Court nominee while supporting one who more directly aligns with their own political ideology.

Confirming one nominee and not another does not constitute rigging the game.

What does constitute rigging the game? Adding four Supreme Court justices simply because the political party in power wants the majority — in other words, because the Democratic Party needs to change the rules to get its way.

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Taylor Penley is a government relations intern and student studying English, rhetoric and global studies. She plans to graduate in May 2021 and begin a master of arts program in political science this fall.
Taylor Penley is a government relations intern and student studying English, rhetoric and global studies. She plans to graduate in May 2021 and begin a master of arts program in political science this fall.




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