NEW YORK – President Donald Trump’s past life as a television showman provided an irresistible comparison for the media covering his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump’s announcement from the White House on Tuesday had a prime-time slot with broadcast and cable news networks all on hand, genuine suspense over the choice and, finally, the big reveal when Gorsuch and his wife, Louise, emerged from a doorway at the host’s — make that the president’s — request.
“Was that a surprise?” Trump asked audience members and television viewers.
Supreme Court nominations are usually not prime-time affairs and usually not surprises; a president’s selection typically leaks to the news media before the two people make it to the podium. Throughout Tuesday, however, anticipation built, with reporters primarily speculating it would be one of two men, Colorado’s Gorsuch and Pennsylvania Judge Thomas Hardiman.
CNN’s Jim Acosta hyped the event as “reality television meets the Potomac.” CNN took a chance moments before the announcement, correctly predicting Gorsuch.
“High drama all day as the president and his team ratcheted up the suspense,” NBC’s Lester Holt said as that network cast aside its traditional prime-time fare for the announcement.
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“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
The announcement gave Trump the chance to move public attention off Friday’s much-criticized decision to restrict travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had dominated headlines.
After the buildup, the new president’s first prime-time address to the nation was a staid and serious affair. Trump avoided ad-libs in extolling Gorsuch’s background and judicial philosophy, while pointing out he was fulfilling a campaign promise in nominating someone like him.
If Gorsuch’s nomination is approved, that would mean all nine justices of the nation’s top court will have studied at either Harvard or Yale, noted CBS News’ Scott Pelley.
“For those of you keeping score, it’s now Harvard 6, Yale 3,” Pelley said.