“An Actual Insurrection”: Conservatives Equate Supreme Court Roe v. Wade Leak to Literal Violence

Republicans’ decades-long campaign to reshape the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade has never looked more successful. And yet, Republican lawmakers and top conservative pundits have primarily responded to Monday’s news—that the Supreme Court has preliminarily voted to overturn nationwide protections for abortion access—with seething anger toward the anonymous figure who leaked the draft opinion to Politico.  

Republican lawmakers spent Tuesday repeatedly pushing unfounded theories that the leak is part of some left-wing scheme—one supposedly spearheaded by a liberal clerk or justice—meant to intimidate the court weeks before it overturns the federal guarantee of abortion rights in the U.S. Some conservatives went so far as to declare that the leaking of the SCOTUS draft to the press represents a bigger blow to U.S. institutions than the Capitol riot. The draft opinion, which holds a majority vote and stems from the Supreme Court’s hearing on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, was leaked to Politico and published on Monday. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the published draft, but reiterated that it is not a final ruling. The opinion could change by the time it is offered.

“The left continues its assault on the Supreme Court with an unprecedented breach of confidentiality, clearly meant to intimidate,” said Senator Josh Hawley (the same Josh Hawley who recently began fundraising off of the infamous picture of him cheering on the mob outside the Capitol on January 6.) “It should go without saying that if a justice leaked this, he or she should face impeachment,” the Missouri Republican added. Hawley told reporters Tuesday that the court should immediately release its final opinion as to “not allow a public pressure campaign to intimidate this court.”

Senator Mike Lee echoed Hawley’s sentiment, claiming that the draft was leaked “specifically for the purpose of threatening, intimidating, and harassing those justices,” while Senator Marco Rubio called the breach a “far left…attempt to intimidate” the highest court. In a press conference Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly dodged questions about the substance of the draft opinion which would overturn Roe, insisting that reporters focus on the leak itself. “That’s not the story for today,” he said of the Supreme Court’s potential ruling on abortion rights.

Conservative pundits went on to draw lines between the act of leaking a draft opinion and committing actual physical violence. “This leak is designed to create threat to the life and limb of any justice who signs onto the majority opinion,” tweeted right-wing podcaster Ben Shapiro. Matt Walsh, another popular right-wing podcaster, described the leak as “an actual insurrection” and that it is “100000000 times more serious than the Capitol riot.”

“[This is an attempt to] incite violence and chaos, and potentially plunge the nation into civil war,” Walsh continued. “January 6th was a stroll in the park compared to this. It’s not even close.”

Even Republicans in the Washington establishment set have embraced this line, with Ari Fleischer, a former White House staffer under George W. Bush, called the leak “an insurrection against the Supreme Court” during a Fox News segment with Sean Hannity on Monday.

During the Monday edition of Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, the host made the unfounded suggestion that a liberal clerk is behind the breach and demanded that Chief Justice Roberts work with the FBI to find the person responsible. “It’s incumbent upon [Roberts] to bring in every law clerk before him or the FBI,” she said. ”‘Give me your phone. We want all your accounts. We’ve got to do our own—look at every device you’ve ever used, and find out who did this.’” On Tuesday, Roberts announced an investigation into what he called an “egregious breach of trust.” Additionally, it’s been reported that the FBI will likely assist with the probe.

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