Prior to Reverend Rob Schenck’s discrediting appearance at the House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, the pro-choice activist was held up as an authority on the pro-life movement by the mainstream media.
During the hearing titled “Undue Influence: Operation Higher Court and Politicking at SCOTUS,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questioned Schenck on a section in his book that claimed his brother “made history” by having Chief Justice William Rehnquist refer to him as “Reverend Paul Schenck” in a case. However, Jordan proved the activist wrong by providing an audio recording of the case at the time.
“One thing I’ve learned: people who mislead folks on small things mislead them on big things,” Jordan said.
Although Schenck’s credibility has now been called into question, he was heavily promoted as an authority figure in the mainstream media to attack the pro-life movement as he had once been a part of it.
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Schenck wrote a New York Times op-ed in 2019 that condemned the movement to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying, “I’ve come to believe that overturning Roe would not be ‘pro-life’; rather, it would be destructive of life.”
Back in July, Rolling Stone magazine politics reporter Kara Vought cited Schenck as a counterpoint to Peggy Nienaber, vice president at Faith & Liberty, who admitted that she prayed with Supreme Court justices in a secretly record video. Schenck, who originally founded the ministry group Faith and Action in the 1990s before renouncing it in 2018, condemned the group and claimed that their actions eventually influenced the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“I was sure, while we were doing it, it would be a positive contribution to our public life,” Schenck said. “It didn’t have the effect I thought it would. In some ways, it set the stage for the reversal of Roe, which I now think of as a social catastrophe.”
The comment was used by Vought to cast aspersions on the justices who prayed with Faith & Liberty. “This disclosure was a serious matter on its own terms, but it also suggested a major conflict of interest. Nienaber’s ministry’s umbrella organization, Liberty Counsel, frequently brings lawsuits before the Supreme Court,” Voght wrote. In fact, Liberty Counsel merely filed an amicus brief in support of the Dobbs case.
The reporter also claimed that Liberty Counsel’s Faith & Liberty ministry made from Schenck’s Faith and Action group, which Liberty Counsel disputed in a statement fo Fox News Digital at the time.
“Liberty Counsel has no involvement with Rob Schenck. Faith & Liberty became a ministry of Liberty Counsel in 2018. While we hired two former employees of Rob Schenck’s organization, Faith and Action, Faith & Liberty is separate from Schenck’s defunct organization and has no association with Rob Schenck. Faith & Liberty is a religious organization and does not engage in law or policy issues,” the statement read.
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Schenck was also spotlighted in a similar Politico piece in July on exposing his organization’s efforts “to wine, dine and entertain conservative Supreme Court justices while pushing conservative positions on abortion, homosexuality, gun restrictions and other issues.” The article noted that Schenck “broke with the religious right in the last decade over its aggressive tactics and support for gun rights.”
Schenck gained notoriety more recently for claiming that Justice Samuel Alito previewed the outcome of the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision to another conservative activist who shared it with him. Although Alito denied this accusation and investigations have shown no evidence supporting his claims, Schenck was propped up in the media for his opposition to pro-life activism as well as the conservative majority in the court.
“Mr. Schenck, 64, has shifted his views on abortion in recent years, alienating him from many of his former associates, and is trying to re-establish himself, now as a progressive evangelical leader. His decision to speak out now about the Hobby Lobby episode, he said, stems from his regret about the actions that he claims led to his advance knowledge about the case,” New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Jo Becker wrote in November.
They added, “He now regrets the tactics he once employed, saying he had used women and babies as props. ‘In all of my rhetoric about humanizing the fetus, I had very much dehumanized others,’ he said in the interview.”
Schenck’s claim that Alito leaked the decision to the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case is what led to him being called as a witness to the hearing on Thursday.
Following the hearing, MSNBC’s Jason Johnson continued to promote Schenck’s “amazing testimony” without referencing Jordan’s questioning while acting as a guest host for “The ReidOut.”
“How dangerous is it to think that our Supreme Court is completely compromised after today’s testimony? Is even a legitimate branch of the government anymore if even 80% of what we heard today and testimony is the standard operating procedures for many justices?” Johnson asked.
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Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., responded, “What we heard today was really shocking. This was a very sophisticated and well financed campaign to influence the court to become more conservative, to fortify their extreme positions. It was really shocking to hear the testimony.”