In some respects, it could be called the making of an endorsement.
At the hearings on the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court, Republican senators backing Bork touted what they said was Justice Byron R. White's "public endorsement" of Bork.
Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) criticized the news media late Monday for "burying" Justice John Paul Stevens' praise of Bork in July. He then charged that the news media were suppressing the news of White's action.
White's "public endorsement," it turns out, occurred at a Sept. 15 cocktail party when White bumped into television talk show host John McLaughlin.
"What would you think of Judge Bork on the court?" McLaughlin asked, according to an account by White released yesterday through the Supreme Court's press office.
"It would be all right with me," White answered.
"Can I quote you?" McLaughlin asked.
"Do whatever you want to," White replied.
The scene shifts to McLaughlin's show, "One on One," which last Sunday featured an interview with Lloyd Cutler, White House counsel in the Carter administration and a Bork backer.
"Does it surprise you," McLaughlin asked, "to learn from me that in a conversation with Justice Byron White that I had this week, he said to me that he favored, he backed the presence of, the confirmation of Judge Bork on the court -- he being a Kennedy appointee."
"I have not heard that before," Cutler said, "but it does not surprise me."
McLaughlin, asked yesterday about White's account, said he also asked White: "You mean you favor the Bork nomination," and that White said: " 'Yes, Bork is all right with me.' "