weather icon Clear

SAUNDERS: Democrats overreach, flag Alito over wife’s expression


Three years ago, The Washington Post deemed a story about an upside-down flag outside U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s Virginia home as too thin. As the Post reported May 25, the paper had corroborated the story, but “decided not to report on the episode at the time because the flag-raising appeared to be the work of [wife] Martha-Ann Alito, rather than the justice, and connected to a dispute with her neighbors.”

On May 16, The New York Times ran the Alito flag story — just as the court is about to rule on two cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Opposition research usually is saved so it can be leaked when it can do the most damage.

Senate Democrats have called on Alito, a George W. Bush nominee, to recuse himself from cases involving the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol because of that 2021 flag display at his home.

Also, in 2023, an “Appeal to Heaven” flag flew at a New Jersey beach house, according to the Times.

“My wife is fond of flying flags,” the justice wrote in a letter to Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. To the skepticism of critics, Alito has denied any involvement in the flying of the flags, which he credited to “a very nasty neighborhood dispute” involving his wife and a neighbor who called Mrs. A “the vilest epithet that can be addressed to a woman.”

The Alitos didn’t have Trump campaign signs on the their lawn. But now the justice is in trouble for banners that, to the casual observer, might seem unrelated to a presidential election.

In the letter, Alito explained that his wife also has flown flags that support colleges and sports teams, as well as seasonal flags. When he became aware of the upside-down banner, he added, he asked his wife to take it down, “but for several days, she refused.” Marriage.

Multiple outlets have reported on the story with little to no mention of the rights of spouses to their own political beliefs. To some of us chickens, expecting wives to subjugate their views for their husbands’ careers, well, that’s so 1950s.

I write this fully aware that appearances matter. That’s why the conservative jurist pushed his conservative wife to stifle her conservative expressions.

But, sheesh, if the “Appeal to Heaven” flag so clearly denotes support for Donald Trump or his bogus view that he won the 2020 election, why was that flag hanging in front of San Francisco’s City Hall until May 25?

As for the efforts of Durbin and Whitehouse to push Alito to recuse himself from votes on all things 2020, Alito rightly noted he has a duty to rule on cases before the nine-person court. Citing separation of powers concerns, Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday declined the two senators’ invitation to meet for a discussion of the situation.

All of the justices have political ties. Their careers have flourished with the support of like-minded leaders; they were confirmed by the U.S. Senate. You can’t divorce them from politics or their deeply held personal beliefs, and yet the system is predicated on the belief that all nine justices will rule impartially. It’s a system that, while imperfect, generally works.

So the idea that Martha-Ann Alito’s choice of flags ruins that balancing act is downright risible.

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.