Washington Post Knew About Alito’s Flag Three Years Ago But Just… Didn’t Tell Anybody

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The New York Times reported that Justice Sam Alito had an upside-down flag flying at his house at the same time the act became a ubiquitous symbol of insurrectionist sympathies. Stinging from being scooped in their own hometown, the Washington Post used the holiday weekend to point out that they actually knew about the riot-friendly flag first, but they just didn’t tell anyone about it.

Crackerjack journalisming!

On Jan. 20, 2021 — the day of Biden’s inauguration, which the Alitos did not attend — [WaPo Supreme Court Reporter Robert] Barnes went to their home to follow up on the tip about the flag. He encountered the couple coming out of the house. Martha-Ann Alito was visibly upset by his presence, demanding that he “get off my property.”

As he described the information he was seeking, she yelled, “It’s an international signal of distress!”

Alito intervened and directed his wife into a car parked in their driveway, where they had been headed on their way out of the neighborhood. The justice denied the flag was hung upside down as a political protest, saying it stemmed from a neighborhood dispute and indicating that his wife had raised it.

Martha-Ann Alito then got out of the car and shouted in apparent reference to the neighbors: “Ask them what they did!” She said yard signs about the couple had been placed in the neighborhood. After getting back in the car, she exited again and then brought out from their residence a novelty flag, the type that would typically decorate a garden. She hoisted it up the flagpole. “There! Is that better?” she yelled.

This distress excuse never made a lick of sense. Obviously it’s a sign of distress… and that’s why the January 6 crowd started using it. The Post’s defense of its inaction is that “It was not clear then that the argument was rooted in politics,” which is absolutely bonkers unless the Alitos told the paper that the fight was over someone keeping their garbage bins out after 9 a.m. or something. Given that the Alitos were admitting at the time that it was a dispute over yard signs, claiming this didn’t appear political strains credulity.

Frankly, the absolutely unhinged response described in this narrative should have been a story unto itself.

While the Alito excuses for this incident are bad, the Post’s managed to be even dumber. Obviously this is a political story. In the immediate aftermath of a riot at the Capitol, a US Supreme Court justice flew the symbol of the insurrectionists at his house. That’s newsworthy regardless.

What most likely happened — but the paper won’t admit — is that the Post worried about losing access to America’s most cloistered political organ if it ran a story about America’s favorite coup curious couple, deciding that staying in Alito’s good graces might pay dividends down the line. What if he started leaking opinions or something (wink wink)?

And the worst part is that the Post might not have been strategically wrong about that. When Pro Publica started breaking all the financial shenanigans that Clarence Thomas and Alito get up to, everyone wondered how scandals that dated back years hadn’t come out sooner from any of the dedicated Supreme Court reporters. The Supreme Court leverages its life-tenured structure to force reporters into maintaining long-term relationships with the justices and its institutional secrecy to cultivate a starved and deferential press corps. As long as the Court is allowed to drape itself in well-managed opacity, reporters on that beat are going to constantly second-guess themselves lest they blow up their access to other Court news.

The institutional rot of the Supreme Court spills over and hamstrings the press. Throw this on top of the already a powerful case for term limits for those serving on the active Supreme Court panel.

Wife of Justice Alito called upside-down flag ‘signal of distress’ [Washington Post]

Earlier: Samuel Alito Throws Wife Under The Bus Over ‘Stop The Steal’ Flag
The Sam Alito Flag Excuses Keep Getting Dumber
Samuel Alito Displays Second Controversial Flag, Secure In The Knowledge Nothing Will Be Done About It

HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.


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