Some media parrotted right-wing misinterpretations of court ruling on Arizona immigration law

Yesterday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against three portions of Arizona’s controverial immigration law and clearly warned that a fourth provision, which has yet to take effect, might also be struck down in a future legal challenge.

By any reasonable measure, the decision was a resounding victory for the Obama administration. It affirmed that immigration matters are the bailiwick of the federal government, not the states. (See HERE.)

But some conservatives were either confused about the ruling or desperate to give it a spin that favored their point of view. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, for example, took a virtual victory lap, declaring that she and other proponents of the law at issue had “unanimously been vindicated by the highest court in the land.”

A headline on the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s blog read: “Supreme Court Backs Arizona’s Right to Enforce Immigration Laws,” and the text of the post began with this: “Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the major provision of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 immigration law is a strong rebuke of the Obama Administration.”

A headline on The Wall Street Journal Web site displayed a tone that numerous other media quickly emulated: “Supreme Court Upholds Key Part of Arizona Law.”

The folks at the Fox News Web site were predictably gleeful, as their headline (above) attested: “U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Part of Tough Arizona Immigration Law, in Defeat for Obama.”

The poor saps at Fox should have paid more attention to what their network’s legal analyst, former Federal Judge Andrew Napolitano said: “The heart and soul of the Arizona statute has been struck down by the Supreme Court, consistent with previous Supreme Court opinions that basically say for better or for worse whether you like it or not immigration is a federal issue to be administered by the United States of America by the federal government and not by the states.”

But the misreading of the court’s ruling was not limited to right-wing media. Even The New York Times carried a headline that missed the upshot of the decision: “Justices Uphold Key Part of Arizona Law.”

For all concerned, especially those in the so-called mainstream media, the moral here is that Supreme Court rulings, which are usually complicated matters, should be examined carefully before interpretations of them are presented to the world.


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