Dear Dallas Morning News:
As you know, I certainly can’t complain about the coverage I’ve generally had in the Dallas Morning News. You’ve been generous to me over the years. But I really must protest the paltry and even silly treatment of the Scalia–Garner event in the January 29 edition (believe it or not, on page 8B of the Metro section).
Let’s forget for the moment that it was a full house of over 1,700 at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium and that Justice Scalia (I was merely fortunate to be onstage) received a standing ovation. And let’s forget the fact that never before in history has a Supreme Court justice coauthored one or more books with anyone, much less a Dallasite—and that this is the first coverage the paper has given our second book, which appeared last June. Not even our joint appearance on Piers Morgan received mention in my hometown newspaper. All that is probably my fault: I don’t have a publicist and never trumpet such matters.
What is especially disappointing is that Tasha Tsiaperas seriously misreported the gist of the joint presentation at SMU. She quotes me as saying, “I will tell you that my political beliefs are different from those of Justice Scalia” and reports that “Garner supports gay marriage and favors stricter gun control laws.” But she fails to follow up with the only reason that mentioning these issues or the authors’ political differences is relevant: Justice Scalia and I worked through 700 cases while writing our 600-page book and have not found a single case on which we disagree about legal interpretation. The point is that judicial textualism leads to consistent results, regardless of political bent.
But more disturbingly, she ends her short piece quoting Justice Scalia as saying of the Constitution: “It’s not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead.” End of piece. That may make an eye-catching headline (as in your online edition), but it’s a serious distortion. Here is what he actually said:
“I used to say that the Constitution is not a living document. It’s dead, dead, dead. But I’ve gotten better. I no longer say that. The truth is that the Constitution is not one that morphs. It’s an enduring Constitution, not a changing Constitution. That is what I’ve meant when I’ve said that the Constitution is dead.”
The Dallas Morning News apparently had the sole reporter present, and Ms. Tsiaperas’s report has now been reproduced in many other blogs and news reports, including on-air mentions by MSNBC and Fox News. Less than 48 hours after the event, Google shows 1.8 million hits for your seriously acontextual “quotation.”
Ms. Tsiaperas’s account might have included a dozen fresh and newsworthy (not to mention actual) things that Justice Scalia said. To top it all off, she reported the title of the Scalia–Garner book incorrectly.
My coauthor is accustomed to such distortions. I’m becoming that way, but I’m not there yet. I might have hoped for page one of the Metro section, if not of the whole Tuesday edition, but I suppose if things are going to be misrepresented, it’s really best they be buried.
Of course, I know these things happen from time to time, and I hasten to send you my best regards. I was delighted to see Belo’s general counsel at the end of Monday night’s session. I am confident that he will confirm the accuracy of what I have said here.
Bryan A. Garner
P.S. Why is it that when Justice Ginsburg spoke to a smaller audience in the same auditorium, she received front-page coverage? Justice Scalia speaks about an important new book that has been hailed as a “major event in American legal culture,” and it is relegated to page 8B of the Metro section underneath a notice that Rene Castilla, previously an unsuccessful candidate for Irving City Council, will be running again for that position—and just opposite a notice about Carrollton Christian Academy’s upcoming “kindergarten sneak-a-peek.”