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In her haste to find a conservative scholar that was critical of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg attributed a quote critical of the Defense of Marriage Act to that of the VRA.

I have always believed in correcting mistakes, especially bad ones. In my wrap-up piece at the end of the Supreme Court term, I quoted Northwestern University law professor John McGinnis as one of several conservative scholars highly critical of the court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act. In my telling, he called the decision “as singular a failure as I’ve seen in the history of the Supreme Court.” But I inadvertently misused the quote, which came from his appearance on a panel at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

McGinnis used those words to describe the court’s decision in the Defense Of Marriage Act case, not the Voting Rights Act decision about which he was also critical but not nearly as sweeping in his condemnation. I listened to the whole panel but apparently got confused in my notations about what McGinnis was talking about at about an hour and 10 minutes into the panel.

All the other quotes in my piece were from interviews that I personally conducted. This one was not, and my error illustrates why I should have been doubly careful.

I deeply regret the error and apologize to McGinnis and to listeners.

While I applaud Totenberg’s apology, her excuse for mixing up the quotes is a little suspect.  As a legal affairs correspondent she should be able to follow the arguments and distinguish which case is being spoken about.

I don’t think she was as confused as she professed, but had to apologize for getting caught spinning a story to make it look like conservatives were equally appalled as liberals with the VRA decision.

 

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