Appearing on Thursday night's episode of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," MSNBC progressive news host Rachel Maddow recounted her trip to the Supreme Court earlier in the week to watch the justices debate the Voting Rights Act, on the same day that a statue of Rosa Parks was being unveiled just yards away.
"I feel like I don't have a number line that is long, enough, that goes high enough, to understand how on the same day we are unveiling the statue of Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol, and one block away we are considering getting rid of the pillar of civil rights law," she said. "And that happens at the same time at the same place and nobody's head exploded. But that's what we did."
Justice Antonin Scalia drew some shocked reactions during that hearing when he referred to the Voting Rights Act as the "perpetuation of racial entitlement" in America, saying Congress was cowed into overwhelmingly re-authorizing the law for the fourth time in 2006.
“I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act,” Scalia said. “They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful — the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?”
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement and played a key role in getting the Voting Rights Act passed, told MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton he felt the comments were "unreal, unbelievable," and "almost shocking."
Maddow said she felt very "weird" seeing Scalia speak like that "in person" because of a certain rhetorical style that does not come through in transcripts of the court's deliberations, which are never televised or even filmed. "Being there in person you can see, 'Oh, actually, he's a troll,'" she said. "He's saying this for effect. He knows it's offensive and he knows it's going to get a gasp from the courtroom, and he loves it. He's like the guy on your blog comment thread using the n-word."
Scalia's reasoning apparently tweaked Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who Maddow said several times turned to "give him what for" on calling the right to vote a racial entitlement. The Obama-appointed justice reportedly asked attorneys challenging the Voting Rights Act whether they think racial discrimination has ended in America, and whether Congress voted for it because they felt it was a racial entitlement.
"Her questions are technically to the lawyers, but she is talking to Antonin Scalia every time," Maddow said. "It's like a brawl between them. It's great." She added that Sotomayor appeared "ready for" Scalia, "and has a rejoinder that would make him feel embarrassed if he wasn't a troll who loves to make people mad."
These videos were aired on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.