The Godliness Scandal

What a shocker — a member of the Supreme Court turns out to be in favor of godliness. The Times comes down with the fantods.

Erin Schaff/the New York Times via AP, pool
Justice Samuel Alito in 2021. Erin Schaff/the New York Times via AP, pool

Oh, my Gawd — Can you believe this? The latest scoop from the New York Times is a shocker. Make sure that your children are locked in the bedroom. The Times is reporting that Justice Samuel Alito “told a woman posing as a Catholic conservative last week that,” as the Times put it, “compromise in America between the left and right might be impossible and then agreed with the view that the nation should return to a place of godliness.”

What a story — a member of the Supreme Court turns out to be in favor of godliness. It just horrifies the mind. Plus it’s not just Justice Alito who is enchanted with the idea of “godliness.” It doesn’t take a long search on the internet to discover that George Washington himself was a member of the Anglican Church. What kind of precedent does that set? Our first president was a church member. We’re not making it up, is all we can say.  

Hell, even Lincoln wrote of what might be construed as godliness — on both sides. “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other,” Abe declared in his second inaugural. Is that to what Justice Alito was referring when he responded to the sneaky correspondent, “One side or the other is going to win,” he said, suggesting that nonetheless “There can be a way of working, a way of living together peacefully.”

One of the features of the story, brought to light by Rolling Stone, is the methods of the reporter, Lauren Windsor. She joined the Supreme Court Historical Society and “surreptitiously” recorded her conversation with Justice Alito — and another with Chief Justice Roberts. The reporter misled Justice Alito, suggesting she was a conservative Catholic. Whether she would have been given the same response from Justice Alito if she hadn’t been so sneaky one can but speculate. Our guess is yes.

In any event, newspapering of the old school would have taken a dim view of the reporter’s behavior. The New York Sun’s “Reporter’s Handbook and Manual of Style” prohibits her tactics in no uncertain terms. “No reporter of the Sun,” the style manual says, “is permitted to use disguises, false poses, or dishonesty of any kind in reporting a story, and no editor is authorized to instruct a reporter otherwise.”

Ms. Windsor, for her part, justifies her subterfuge by tweeting that “the Supreme Court justices would give me different answers had I told them I was a journalist” and “this is why I have to do what I do.” That’s an uncalled for slight to the Justice. While she might be under the impression that she’s uncovered a scoop on a par with the Pentagon Papers or Watergate, it’s hard to see what’s so all-fired newsworthy about Justice Alito’s remarks. 

Even Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe concludes that Justice Alito’s “comments aren’t disqualifying in themselves.” As far as the justice’s appearance of impartiality, though, he frets that “they contribute to breaking this tired camel’s already weakened back.” That’s a reference to the steady stream of press reports on Justice Alito’s private life, down to the flags on his lawn, suggesting that he might, in all truth, hold conservative political views.

Yet nothing Justice Alito has said or done appears to approach Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments, in an election year no less, about President Trump, then a candidate for office. “I can’t imagine what the country would be,” she said, “with Donald Trump as our president.” He was a “faker,” she added. The Times urged her to “drop the political punditry” but otherwise the response was muted compared with what Justice Alito is facing.

Senator Blumenthal, who already confessed to being “beyond disturbed” by Justice Alito’s wife flying an upside down flag in January 2021, denounces the justice as “a loose cannon turned on the Court itself.” The justice “mocks ethics,” he says. The actual ethical lapse is the liberal effort to undermine the legitimacy of the court — and overturn the court’s conservative majority — via increasingly personal attacks. We could use more godliness.

The New York Sun

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