In what could be the largest audience ever for a reality TV series reveal, President Donald Trump will tonight unveil the winner of Extreme Makeover: SCOTUS Edition, carried live by the broadcast networks, the cable news networks, and streamed live on Facebook.
Trump has narrowed the field from 21 hopefuls selected for him by a conservative think tank, and will announce tonight at 8 PM ET whether Neil Gorsuch or Thomas Hardiman take the seat on the Supreme Court that has been vacant since the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.
Trump’s decision to summon both men to Washington this today, and his Monday announcement that he would reveal the winner tonight in a primetime TV special seemed to shock some TV news talking heads and Supreme Court scholars, who may not be familiar with reality TV tropes.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, Supreme Court biographer Joan Biskupic said on CNN, noting she’s been covering the court since 1990 and has tracked it back to 1971. “It has never ever been like this,” she said. Until Trump, presidents typically let it be known who was their pick the day or the weekend before it was made official, she said. The man not named by Trump tonight becomes the country’s first Supreme Court Justice candidate cum reality-TV decoy.
Filling The Supreme Court has been this week’s favorite parlor game in Washington, and TV news outlets have been breathlessly reporting “increasing indications” Trump is favoring Gorsuch, but that White House sources are warning Trump could change his mind any time right up to the announcement. CNN has been proudly running on a loop the footage it scored of Hardiman pumping gas in Pennsylvania on his way to Washington, and network star Jake Tapper has taken to referring to the soon-to-be runner-up as “Bachelor No. 2.”
“I know you’re all looking forward to what promises to be a very historic night for the nation and for this president,” Trump’s warm-up act, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this morning at his daily press briefing. “The president is very excited to make this announcement of the next associate justice of the Supreme Court later this evening.”