tv ABC World News Tonight With David Muir ABC September 18, 2020 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
tonight, the breaking news as we come on the air in the west. supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg. john roberts saying our nation has lost a jurist jurist juristt stature. "world news tonight" begins now. good evening as we come on the air in the west. we begin with the breaking headline, the death of supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg. a pioneer of women's rights and gender equality. she died surrounded by family in washington, d.c.
dominated by president clinton in 1993, she has had a number of health challenges in recent years. each time fighting and returning to the court. but we've learned she passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer. she was 83 years old. what does this mean, 46 days until the presidential election? we begin with juju chang, and justice ginsburg, the indelible mark she left on the country. >> reporter: ruth bader ginsburg was a force to be reckoned with. >> all i ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off of our necks. >> reporter: barely five feet tall, but a liberal giant. only the second female justice named on the supreme court. serving there for more than a quarter century.
her path to the highest court in the land was not easy. as one of the few women at harvard law school, she faced discrimination in the '50s. in a documentary, >> she was tied for first in her class. >> not a law firm in the entire city of new york bid for my employment. >> reporter: she became a beloved law professor at rutgers and mapped out a legal strategy to file lawsuits against
discrimination. >> you won't settle for putting susan b. anthony on the new dollar? >> i would never respond in anger. that would have been self-defeating. always as an opportunity to teach, i did see myself as kind of a kindergarten teacher in those days. because the judges didn't think sex discrimination existed. one of the things i tried to plant in their minds was, think about how you would like the world to be for your daughters and granddaughters. >> reporter: she won five landmark cases, which she argued in front of an all-male bench long before she sat on it. she went on to serve as an appeals court judge, until the life-changing nomination by president bill clinton in 1993. >> i'm proud to nominate j
ruth bader ginsburg. >> reporter: that may never have happened had it not been for the intense lobbying effort by her husband, marty ginsburg. at her confirmation hearing, chaired by then-senator joe biden, the nominee did not shy away from her feminism. spotlighting contentious topics like abortion rights. >> this is central to a woman's life, to her dignity. >> reporter: the senate confi confirmconfir confirmed her in a sweeping vote. she's perhaps best known for a decision in 1996 that struck down a male-only admissions policy at the virginia military institute. >> it's justice ginsburg writing
an opinion that building on the foundations that lawyer ginsburg laid. >> some people did not react well, and my response was, wait and see. you will be proud of the women who become graduates of vmi. [ applause ] >> reporter: and in a landmark case on accomplishment discrimination in 2007, she wrote a powerful dissent that prompted congress to change laws. the fair pay act became one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by president barack obama. while on the supreme court, she was a consistently liberal voice on issues like abortion, voting rights, and the separation of church and state. off the bench, she was the first
supreme court justice to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. she broke tradition for a justice when she spoke out against then-candidate donald trump, including to "the new york times." calling him a faker. saying i can't imagine what the country would be with donald trump as our president. later adding her comments were ill-advised, and that she regretted making them. but she won the respect of many conservatives with her grasp of the law and opinions. and her scathing dissents inspired legions of young fans and feminists with her outspokenness and fitness routines. earning her the nickname notorious rbg. and her fashion statements, her
distinctive collars becoming her calling card. >> this one is for dissenting opinions. >> reporter: she helped focus our country on its most basic values of justice and equality. >> juju chang on the life and legacy of justice ginsburg. and i want to bring in terry moran, who has covered the supreme court for years for us. she quietly fought her health battles with dignity, returning so many times. but terry, her influence on the court, on this country, can't be overstated. >> reporter: it can't. you're absolutely right. ruth bader ginsburg is a towering figure. a person of diminutive stature, but this slight woman who looked
like she may blow away in a big wind had strength. she was a person of tremendous stre strength, and the reason she rose to so much prominence, she's one of the figures in american history who expanded, sometimes against fierce resistance, our understanding of the bedrock american principles, the bedrock constitutional principles of equality and liberty. and did so as a lawyer, in which time after time, case after case, she slowly broke down barriers of gender discrimination, when you look at them today, you almost laugh at them. and ruth bader ginsburg did that. she became a lion of the liberal wing of that court. in her later years, writing in memorable dissents, planting seeds against the expansion of
some of those concepts. she will live forever in the law, and also in american culture, because she's such an all-american figure. the daughter of a jewish immigrant. she's a tough woman, a woman a great personality and great character. a woman memorable if you ever saw her or met her. and a person who left her mark on american history. >> terry moran, stick with us. i want to bring in jonathan karl. as i pointed out at the top, this news comes just 46 days before the election. and americans already reacting to the news. somewhat upset by the discussion already turning to politics and what comes next. but that's what happens when a story like this unfolds so close to a presidential election. you've learned president trump is expected to nominate a new
supreme court justice in the coming days? >> reporter: multiple sources familiar with the president's deliberations say they expect the president will nominate a replacement for ruth bader ginsburg, despite the fact that there are just 46 days to go. they expect this choice will come and will be announced in the coming days. one name seen at the very top of the list is amy another one, would be the first asian-american on the court. but david, this is about to become -- it's about to explode on to this campaign, as the central and most hard-fought issue. ruth bader ginsburg is a liberal icon, and also a critical liberal voice on that court. has been, replacing her would tilt the balance
for a generation to come. >> thank you, jon. let's bring in mary bruce. this is now a big test, as jon points out, for the senate. what will happen with a divided nation, a polarized country. every step the senate takes will be received by voters on both sides. you've learned mitch mcconnell is talking to republican lawmakers already about next steps to take? >> reporter: he is. he's been very clear, he's going to try and fill this seat. even though there's potentially just 126 days before inaugurati inauguration. in 2016, he refused to even consider president obama's seat. he said voters should decide after the election. but now he says this is a very different situation. unlike in 2016, now republicans
control both the senate and the white house. democrats of course blast mcconnell's argument as hypocritical. but democrats have very little power here. it takes just a simple majority to confirm a nominee, and republicans have that. the best tool democrats have may simply be to try and delay. but it's not a given that republicans can fill this seat. will they have enough time to pull it off? and what will vulnerable republicans do? there are a handful in tight races that could be swayed to oppose the president's pick. remember, it takes just four to flip and block whomever the president names. senator collins of maine has hinted she simply thinks it's too close to the election to try to fill the seat. and just a day before the news of the death broke, lisa
murkowski said she would not confirm someone. >> and the republicans do have the votes if they decide to move forward? >> reporter: they potentially have the vote. there is nothing democrats can do to block them. >> mary, thank you. i want to bring this statement to the folks watching at home from chief justice john roberts. saying we have lost a cherished colleague. today we mourn, but we know that future generations will remember her a tireless and resolute champion of justice. and terry moran, in this polarized moment in this country, a lot of people will be turned off by the conversation turning so rapidly to politics. ruth bader ginsburg was universally admired on both sides of the aisle in washington, and by conservative
justices she shared the bench on the court with so many years. justice scalia, and justice roberts, with powerful words tonight of the colleague they're mourning the loss of. >> reporter: that's a good point. they work together in a way much of america doesn't. she was much admired and beloved by many of her colleagues. justice scalia, who died in 2016, they were very good friends. kind of an odd couple. opera lovers, traveled together. they disagreed ferociously, sometimes took on each other in their opinions, but remained very close friends. and you're right, her intellect. there was nobody better prepared on a case than ruth bader ginsburg. she was a fine legal mind. and everyone respected that. and also, i think, you have to
respect her story. it's such an all-american story. somebody coming from new york city, not well to do, who managed to change american history. the world looks very different for women and for all of us because of ruth bader ginsburg, and that ultimately is her legacy. >> terry moran on ruth bader ginsburg tonight. i want to get back to jonathan karl, and we're monitoring some of the reaction coming in. hillary clinton, reacting tonight. saying ruth bader ginsburg paved the way for so many women. hillary included. we're waiting for word from president trump. have we heard anything from the white house? >> reporter: the president was giving a speech in minnesota as the news broke. we don't know if he's been informed yet. i'm assuming we'll hear a statement very soon. she was the liberal heart of the
supreme court. but certainly an american icon, somebody who transcended politics. but this will very quickly turn to perhaps the most ferocious political fight of the year. >> jon karl, thanks to you and our entire team tonight. we'll have more on the life and legacy of justice ginsburg, and the remarkable love story behind her marriage. and the other news, including the major headline out of los angeles with the deputies who were ambushed. back in a moment.
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was an icon. she pushed for gender equality, and at her side, her husband of nearly half a century. martin ginsburg. here's juju chang. >> reporter: they were law school sweethearts. >> he was an extraordinary man. very smart, but completely unthreatened by how smart his wife was. >> reporter: it's a love story about a feminist couple long before her time. >> she said marty was the first guy who cared that she had a brain. >> he was bragging about her in law school, saying my wife is going to be on law review. he continued to support her career throughout their marriage. >> reporter: a formidable tax attorney in his own right, it was only after his intense advocacy that bill clinton nominated ginsburg to the highest court in the land.
>> she says it was marty who lobbied and made sure that she was at least under consideration. >> reporter: at her supreme rem court confirmation hearing, she spoke about marty's support. >> i have had the great good fortune to share life with a partner, a man who believed at age 18, when we met, that a woman's work, whether at home or on the job, is as important as a man's. >> juju chang, thank you.
we have lost a legend. supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg passed away today at the age of 87. with that, good evening and thank you for joining us, i'm dion lim. >> i'm eric thomas. she fought a long and difficult battle with pancreatic cancer. here's abc news reporter karen travers with a look back at her career. >> reporter: she was just the second woman to serve on the u.s. supreme court, but ruth bader ginsburg's true legacy may be at the architect of the equal rights movement. her career began in the 1950s when sexual and racial discrimination was a fact of life. >> not a law firm in the entire city of new york bid for my employment as a lawyer. >> reporter: eventually she was hired by the american civil liberties union. she would help lead a movement that changed the nation, challenging laws that treated men and women differently in employment, housing and