"Nuclear" Use Not An Option

Sometimes terminology enters the lexicon and gets used without a lot of thought as to where it originated or what it really means. We demonstrated that yesterday with a look at where Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's oft-used nickname, "Scalito" came from. Today we have a similar example a little closer to home.

Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog group, noticed an Associated Press story that was modified and posted on CBSNews.com that they had a problem with. The article, about the Alito confirmation process, focused on the possibility of a Democratic filibuster and a Republican response option often called the "nuclear option." Media Matters notes:
"The article on CBSNews.com reports: "[Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [R-TN] said he's ready to move against judicial filibusters, using what Republicans call the 'constitutional option' and Democrats term the 'nuclear option.' " Other versions of the AP article, however, do not ascribe "nuclear option" to Democrats. CBS presumably added the language to the AP article.

As Media Matters for America has noted on numerous occasions, the term "nuclear option," as it pertains to judicial filibusters, was originally coined by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS). Republican strategists have since shunned the term as a liability and have instead urged the use of "constitutional option." A May 17 Washington Post article quoted Republican pollster Frank Luntz saying: "The implication of 'nuclear option' is way too hot and extreme."
We asked Mike Sims, director of news and operations for CBSNews.com, who told us that, yes, the language about Democrats using the line "nuclear option" was added by a writer at CBSNews.com. Sims said the addition was in error:
"Our writer's recollection of the origin of the term "nuclear option" was in error. The story has been corrected, with an Editor's Note attached. We appreciate it being brought to our attention."
Media Matters has chronicled incidents in the past where media outlets have described the "nuclear" tag to the maneuver which would take away the filibuster option on judicial nominations. It's one of those terms that get thrown around that we all need to be more careful with.
  • Vaughn Ververs

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