Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

More on Greenhouse


I wrote a bit about her in The Party of Death:

In the spring of 1989, as the Supreme Court considered the Webster case. . . supporters of abortion rights staged a big march in Washington, D.C. Many reporters were there, of course. But not all of them were there to cover it. Several journalists from prominent newspapers were there as marchers. Linda Greenhouse, who has long covered the Supreme Court for the New York Times, was one of them.

The journalists’ participation in the rally became controversial. The editors of the Times said that Greenhouse should not have marched. Other reporters tut-tutted her for bringing her objectivity into question. The dispute was somewhat otherworldly. No well-informed observer has ever thought that Greenhouse, or the Times, was unbiased, before or since the march. Conservatives even coined the phrase “the Greenhouse effect” to refer to the possibility that Supreme Court justices move left to get better coverage from her and like-minded scribes.

Greenhouse spent the second half of 1992 praising Casey in the Times as a “tightly reasoned” decision by “centrist” justices. She has described the dissenters—Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist—as “the Court’s far right.” She has written that Roe has “taken on a life of its own, evolving into something . . . in tune with the ideals of the American mainstream.” And she has written an admiring biography of Harry Blackmun.

If anything, the marching journalists had done everyone a favor by making their biases better known. . . . 

Which makes my reaction something like Ed Whelan’s to her latest provocations.

I come back to Greenhouse a few pages later, when I am contrasting the Times’s distaste for the phrase “partial-birth abortion” with its treatment of pro-choice slogans: 

When pro-life presidents cut off family-planning funding for groups that counsel women to have abortions, pro-choicers called the policy a “gag rule”—and the press did not handle the phrase with gloves and tongs. Headlines, including New York Times headlines, regularly used variants of the phrase. Greenhouse casually referred to Rust v. Sullivan, which concerned the policy, as “the abortion gag-rule case.” 

And I return to her one more time, mentioning that she was putting pro-abortion spin into the Times at the start of the 1970s, when she uncritically repeated Cyril Means Jr.’s false claim that New York had prohibited abortion solely to protect women from unsafe surgery, and not out of any concern for fetal life. 

Tags: Ponnuru


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review