One can expect a round of eulogies in appreciations when a longtime leader on the Supreme Court dies, but when “feminist icon” Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, the level of praise was so thick, she was celebrated as a force for “liberty” and as a figure of “great righteousness” in the Jewish tradition. The Saturday morning shows were dominated by Ginsburg fans, promoters, and co-workers.
On ABC’s Good Morning America, reporter Terry Moran was all gush, no balance:
TERRY MORAN: What a life it was! What a legacy it was!…Justice Ruth Ginsburg, one of those Americans, and there aren’t many, really, who through force of character and her brilliant intellect was able to expand our understanding of those bedrock constitutional ideals, equality and liberty. She was born into a very different America where liberty and basic opportunity and human dignity for women looked very, very different than they do today. And that change came about in large part because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her character, her intellect, her fierce determination to see the words equality and liberty made real for Americans changed America.
Overnight crowds gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to mourn the passing of justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at 87 years old. So many young people there, saying goodbye to a most improbable pop icon.
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Moran also treated him as a giant on the bench, but noted he was loathed by some (unlike today): “Love him or loathe him, and Americans did both, he was the kind of man to inspire those feelings.”
ABC turned to former Ginsburg clerk Jeff Rosen, who insisted honoring Ginsburg would involve not letting Trump nominate a justice yet:
ROSEN: I hope that people who hear that last wish from her granddaughter will hear that not as a partisan statement, but a statement about the legitimacy of the court. Justice Ginsburg understood if the seat were to be filled the under these extremely polarizing circumstances it would harm the court’s nonpartisan legitimacy, so we would simply think of it as just a political body and that would not be an honor to her legacy of maintaining the legitimacy of the court she cared so much about.
On Today on NBC, Peter Alexander couldn’t just praise Ginsburg as a legal giant, but as a person of “great righteousness” according to Jewish tradition.
PETER ALEXANDER: Andrea, you know that for Ginsburg, her Jewish faith was so important. By Jewish tradition, a person who dies on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, as it was yesterday, is a person of great righteousness. You knew her personally, what are your recollections, your reflections today?
ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, righteousness is an apt description. Strength, incredible strength. This woman was so determined, she could do anything!
It turns out Alexander was echoing MSNBC host Brian Williams from Friday night on what in Hebrew is called a tzaddik, noting Ginsburg would say she had three strikes against her in her career.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: She was a woman. She was a working mom. And she was a Jew. And I’d like to begin by talking about her Jewish faith, which was so important to her. I was reminded tonight that in the Jewish faith, those who die on Rosh Hashanah are believed to be blessed with an extra type of divine righteousness. It was deeply a part of who she was as a thoroughly modern figure and as a woman like justice O’Connor, despite having sterling, first-class credentials, a huge intellect, had such a hard time breaking in.
On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, host Scott Simon also touched on Rosh Hashanah in a commentary: “I found myself convinced last night, as Justice Ginsburg’s death was reported, that this year the cry of the shofar [horn] somehow heralds her passing from this earth and this nation Justice Ginsburg strived so mightily and tirelessly to make more fair and kind.”
None of these people considered Ginsburg’s forceful defense of abortion rights as opposed to kindness, fairness, or righteousness.