NBC Chats Children’s Book With Sotomayor, Skips Controversies

Despite liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor being at the center of a series of recent controversies, during a live interview on NBC’s Today show Tuesday morning, co-host Savannah Guthrie didn’t ask the jurist about a single one. Instead, almost the entire softball chat was devoted to selling Sotomayor’s latest children’s book.

“Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is out with a beautiful new picture book. It’s called, Just Help! How to Build A Better World, it’s available in English and in Spanish and it is filled with ways that kids of all ages can help their friends and their neighbors in big ways and small ways,” Guthrie gushed as she welcomed Sotomayor on the broadcast.

The anchor provided this glowing review:

And the illustrations, which is how I first judge any children’s book, as a mom myself, you’ve got to have good pictures, they’re adorable….We’re seeing images from the book. I remember years ago, Justice Sotomayor, we walked together in your old neighborhood in the Bronx when your memoir came out. Once again, that neighborhood feels like a character in this book, too. It’s about that community. You really – it’s a love story for that community.

During the friendly 2013 interview that she referenced, Guthrie gossiped about Sotomayor’s love life.

Before asking the only substantive question of Tuesday’s exchange, Guthrie assured the liberal Justice: “I know that you are not permitted to discuss any case or controversy before the Supreme Court in this interview, and I’m not even going to try it, but let me ask you this.” The host then fretted about the “credibility” of the conservative-majority high court being jeopardy:

Just generally, there is concern that the Court, as an institution, its credibility has been falling. A recent Gallup poll found just 54% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the Court. How much do you worry about that, the Court as an institution and how the public sees it?

This has been a favorite question from Guthrie over the years. In that 2013 interview with Sotomayor, the NBC anchor worried about the Court “splitting along partisan or ideological lines” between “so-called liberals” and the “conservative ideological bloc.” In 2018, Guthrie feared to Sotomayor that the “constitutional system” was “under pressure” with Donald Trump in the White House.   

On Tuesday, Sotomayor replied: “I think all of us worry about that. We think about ways in which we can comport ourselves among ourselves to ensure that the public has confidence in what we’re doing.”

That response should have given Guthrie the perfect opportunity to push back with a follow-up about Sotomayor’s own politically-charged attack on her conservative colleagues back in December. During oral arguments about Mississippi’s 15-week abortion law – the ruling over which could lead to the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade – Sotomayor ranted: “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible.”

If Guthrie wanted to discuss an even more recent controversy, she could have pressed Sotomayor on spreading COVID misinformation during oral arguments over President Biden’s vaccine mandate.

In addition to those court cases, Guthrie could have asked about NPR’s false reporting of a supposed feud between Sotomayor and fellow Justice Neil Gorsuch over his alleged refusal to wear a mask. A story completely disproved by public statements from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Gorsuch, and Sotomayor herself.

While ignoring all of those hard-hitting topics, Guthrie wrapped up the fawning segment by asking: “I noted that this is your fourth children’s book and I had to laugh because I’ve read a few court opinions and you’ve written a few court opinions. That’s pretty dense writing. Is there something about writing children’s books that’s kind of a relief?”

After Sotomayor remarked that “it’s somehow harder to write a children’s book than an adult book because in a children’s book you have to think about every word,” Guthrie joked: “I thought you were a going say writing a children’s book is harder than a Supreme Court opinion.”

As many softballs as Guthrie lobbed on Tuesday, at least she didn’t bring out a cake for the liberal Justice, like her colleagues did while promoting Sotomayor’s last children’s book in 2019.

This friendly, controversy-free interview was brought to viewers by Hyundai. You can fight back by letting this advertiser know what you think of it sponsoring such content.

Here is a transcript of Guthrie’s questions to Sotomayor during the January 25 exchange:

8:35 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, if you are wondering how to encourage your kids to pry their eyes away from a screen and get involved if their communities, this is for you. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is out with a beautiful new picture book. It’s called, Just Help! How to Build A Better World, it’s available in English and in Spanish and it is filled with ways that kids of all ages can help their friends and their neighbors in big ways and small ways. And Justice Sotomayor joins us now. Good morning, Madame Justice, it’s nice to see you.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Good morning, Savannah. It’s wonderful to be here with you today.

GUTHRIE: I really loved paging through this book and then learning that it was inspired by your own mom. I know she passed away recently. What do you think she would have thought about this tribute to her?

(…)

GUTHRIE: And the illustrations, which is how I first judge any children’s book, as a mom myself, you’ve got to have good pictures, they’re adorable. We see “Mammi” and we see little “Sonia,” and your mom in this book, she asks a question of little Sonia every day, how will you help today? Why did you think that was a good idea for a children’s book?

(…)

GUTHRIE: We’re seeing images from the book. I remember years ago, Justice Sotomayor, we walked together in your old neighborhood in the Bronx when your memoir came out. Once again, that neighborhood feels like a character in this book, too. It’s about that community. You really – it’s a love story for that community. But also just for community in general, teaching kids about caring for the place around them in little ways and in big ways.

(…)

GUTHRIE: I know that you are not permitted to discuss any case or controversy before the Supreme Court in this interview, and I’m not even going to try it, but let me ask you this. Just generally, there is concern that the Court, as an institution, its credibility has been falling. A recent Gallup poll found just 54% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the Court. How much do you worry about that, the Court as an institution and how the public sees it?

SOTOMAYOR: I think all of us worry about that. We think about ways in which we can comport ourselves among ourselves to ensure that the public has confidence in what we’re doing. I do need to discuss this a little bit with the public to assure them that one of the hardest things about our work is that there are no easy answers. Reasonable people can disagree. In fact, we only take cases when there are circuit splits. I shouldn’t say “only,” but largely, most of our case docket is when the courts below have disagreed. And because of that, obviously, just as the larger society disagrees about the answers to some of our problems, so does the Court. And if you bear that in mind, perhaps the public can be more accepting of the kind of work we do.

GUTHRIE: And, finally, I noted that this is your fourth children’s book and I had to laugh because I’ve read a few court opinions and you’ve written a few court opinions. That’s pretty dense writing. Is there something about writing children’s books that’s kind of a relief?

SOTOMAYOR: Absolutely. It’s wonderful. I have to tell you, it’s somehow harder to write a children’s book than an adult book because in a children’s book you have to think about every word.

(…)

GUTHRIE: I thought you were a going say writing a children’s book is harder than a Supreme Court opinion. But I could see that.

I know you love to go out on book tour and hug the kids. You’ve been doing a virtual tour. But hopefully you’ll get to get out on the road again too, soon. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, thank you so much for your time.

SOTOMAYOR: Thank you, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: And again, the book is called Just Help! You can find out more about it on our website Today.com/shop.

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