The Corner

Culture

Another Phony Story from Linda Greenhouse

Nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor at the Supreme Court, March 2016. (File photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Linda Greenhouse, a longtime legal correspondent and current columnist for the New York Times, is back with a new article opposing the legal claims of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It’s not the first time she has written such an article. It’s not even the first time she has used a pointless metaphor about storytelling to make her case. That’s alright: The case has been dragging on for years, and we’re all running out of new things to say. What’s less excusable is that it’s not the first time Greenhouse has made a simple, easily-checked mistake about the case in the course of accusing other people of misrepresentations.

Back in 2014, Greenhouse maintained that all the Obama administration was asking the Little Sisters to do was submit a “one-page form” noting that it had religious objections to covering employees’ contraception. She declared herself “baffled” that the nuns considered this requirement a violation of their conscience and that all nine justices of the Supreme Court had taken their complaint seriously. Maybe if she had read on to the second page of the “one-page form,” she would have solved the mystery: Page two proclaimed the form to be the “instrument” that triggered the requirement that a third-party administrator provide the coverage. The nuns didn’t want to be forced to take any action, including signing a form, that caused such coverage.

None of this information is a state secret. You can look up the form, as it stood when she wrote in 2014, on Wikipedia. I pointed out Greenhouse’s error at the time.

Today she is again saying that supporters of the Little Sisters aren’t being “accurate, not by a long shot.” She specifically mentions my recent Bloomberg Opinion column defending them.

Now her imaginary “one-page form” has become an equally imaginary zero-page form. “On the table when the Obama administration left office was a proposed accommodation under which religious nonprofits would not have to do anything — hands off, completely, nothing to sign, no forms to fill out — to have the insurer, with reimbursement by the government, provide ‘seamless’ contraception coverage.”

This is not true. In 2016, the Supreme Court instructed the Obama administration to consider whether it would be possible to require objecting employers to do nothing more than inform their insurance companies that they did not wish to provide contraceptive coverage (or certain types of contraceptive coverage). In January 2017, the administration issued an eleven-page memo saying: No. It was still, in the government’s mind, absolutely vital that the the objectors authorize the insurers’ coverage, in writing. That’s the same position that the state of Pennsylvania is taking in the present case: the position that Greenhouse is, in her at-best confused way, backing.

Legal advocacy may involve a certain amount of storytelling, as Greenhouse laboriously insists. Her advocacy has tipped over into fabulism.

P.S. The Becket Fund lawyer Greenhouse mentions in the new column is named “Rassbach,” not “Rossbach,” as she has it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More
Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More
Regulatory Policy

Going Medieval

Writing in Bloomberg, Noah Smith gives more than a nod to Peter Turchin’s theory of elite overproduction (or, as Smith neatly relabels the phenomenon, “elite over-competition”) as a cause of the current wave of turmoil in the West, something with which I would agree but, I think, more emphatically. Quite ... Read More
Regulatory Policy

Going Medieval

Writing in Bloomberg, Noah Smith gives more than a nod to Peter Turchin’s theory of elite overproduction (or, as Smith neatly relabels the phenomenon, “elite over-competition”) as a cause of the current wave of turmoil in the West, something with which I would agree but, I think, more emphatically. Quite ... Read More
U.S.

Bad News about the Virus

On the menu today: an important update about indications that the coronavirus is now more contagious than it used to be, with far-reaching ramifications for how we fight this pandemic; a point on the recent complaints about the Paycheck Protection Program; and a new book for everyone closely following the debate ... Read More
U.S.

Bad News about the Virus

On the menu today: an important update about indications that the coronavirus is now more contagious than it used to be, with far-reaching ramifications for how we fight this pandemic; a point on the recent complaints about the Paycheck Protection Program; and a new book for everyone closely following the debate ... Read More

Canceled, &c.

There was a headline last week: “Boeing Communications Chief Resigns Over Decades-Old Article on Women in Combat.” Find the story here. It explains that “Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago ... Read More

Canceled, &c.

There was a headline last week: “Boeing Communications Chief Resigns Over Decades-Old Article on Women in Combat.” Find the story here. It explains that “Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago ... Read More