Ever the genteel Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia daintily flicked his fingers under his chin towards a Boston Herald reporter and photographer, Peter Smith. But the effect was anything but genteel. Here is how the Herald describes the scene:
Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.
“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.
The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”
The photographer, who until that moment worked as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese (and has subsequently been fired, quel surprise!), released the photograph to the Boston Herald after Scalia denied he’d made an obscene gesture.
The Herald has since conceded that the gesture might not be quite as obscene as a “fuck you,” but that it’s definitely not something you’d do to your mother. Considering that Scalia was emerging from a Catholic Church where he’d just taken the Eucharist, one has to wonder at the jurist’s sense of prudence. His judicial temperament seems to have taken leave of him when he most needed it.
But given that Scalia believes in executing the insane and minor children (obscene views in themselves) one shouldn’t be surprised at an “innocent” vulgar gesture coming from the august justice. There are those on the right who are applauding Scalia for his forthrightness. I say, if he was really forthright he would’ve flipped the bird at the lawyers arguing before the Court on behalf of the insane. Now that would’ve been forthright!
Now Scalia joins Dick Cheney in the special club of those right-wing Republicans who’ve cursed their critics (in Cheney’s case it was Senator Patrick Leahy who was on the “receiving end” of a hearty “fuck you”) publicly. Imagine what might’ve happened to the intrepid photographer if the duck-hunting Scalia had with him his hunting rifle?!! Though one hopes that Scalia’s aim would’ve been as bad as Cheney’s was when he shot his hunting companion last month.
Dan Sniderman says
I do think a Supreme Court has every right to celebrate his faith however he desires and the question from the journlist (and a Prof at Boston College no less) was the type that causes the public at large to have such a low view of journalists.
I do have some sympathy for Scalia, but his behavior was way over the top. What bugs me the most are the double standards. The same people lauding him would be demanding fines frmo the FCC if this happened on a fictional TV broadcast.
And if, let’s say Rahm Emanuel had behaved similarly leaving a Synagogue (he attended Yom Kippur services at my schul in 2004, although he isn’t a member) , I’m sure we’d have those those same pundits applauding Scalia’s behavior would be calling him “un-hinged”…