L.A. Times Erroneously Claims that the Supreme Court “Determined” That Bush Won the Presidency in 2000
The L.A. Times reports:
Obama dispatched Al Gore to Florida — a merging of man and state that served as painful symbolism to Democrats of the need to cast every ballot.
“Vote early. Take people with you to the polls,” the former vice president said at a rally in Coconut Creek. Gore’s 2000 campaign foundered in Florida after ballot problems led to a long legal standoff. The Supreme Court ultimately determined that Bush had won the presidency with a 537-vote margin in Florida.
No, it didn’t.
This statement is on the front page of today’s paper:
But the statement is false. It apparently comes from some reporter who heard too many people say at the water cooler that the Supreme Court awarded the Presidency to George W. Bush.
But that’s not what happened. Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State, is the person who certified George W. Bush as the winner, and the margin of victory at 537 votes.
The Supreme Court did no such thing. In its per curiam opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed an order of the Florida Supreme Court ordering a recount to proceed. The Court held that the standardless manual recounts in Florida violated the Equal Protection Clause.
It is true that the Court’s actions in halting the recount were a critical factor in the process. But the Supreme Court made no determination as to who had won the presidency. That was Katherine Harris.
You can read the opinion as many times as you like, but you’ll see no statement to the effect: “The Court hereby determines that George W. Bush has won the presidency of the United States by a margin of 537 votes.” Instead, the Court simply stated: “The judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”
Could the L.A. Times have been talking about the Florida Supreme Court? No. On remand, the Florida Supreme Court determined (.pdf) that the appellants were not legally entitled to relief, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion.
So we have a blatant misrepresentation of a basic fact of the 2000 election, smack dab on the paper’s front page.
Business as usual.