'He thinks it's a joke': Justice Alito rebuked after secret speech at gala in Rome
Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered a speech in Rome on religious liberty that is being denounced from the left and the right as furthering the Court's "credibility crisis" while raising questions about the 72-year-old Bush appointee's judgment.
Alito delivered the keynote address at the University of Notre Dame Law School's Religious Liberty Summit gala dinner on July 21. The invitation-only speech, hosted by the 153-year-old Catholic institution, was not announced in advance to the public, nor even made known until one week later, when the law school posted a news release and full video. The Supreme Court Justice was not on the schedule of speakers posted online, as Reuters' Lawrence Hurley, who covers the Supreme Court, noted on social media.
While it's unclear why the speech was kept secret, American media was quick to latch onto some of Alito's remarks but did not do a deep dive into the 35 or so minute-long speech.
CNN and Politico noted Alito lambasted several foreign critics of his majority opinion rescinding five decades of settled U.S. law in the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking the constitutional right to abortion and opening the door to further assaults on liberty and autonomy.
His targets were not opinion writers or pundits, but political leaders of America's top allies. Alito mocked the embattled, now former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, robustly declaring, "he paid the price."
Politico added that Alito "went on to note that President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada 'are still in office' despite the salvos they launched at the ruling."
And he went after Britain's Prince Harry, falsely characterizing the Duke's remarks.
“What really wounded me was when the duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations and seemed to compare the decision whose name may not be spoken with the Russian attack on Ukraine,” Alito said. “Despite this temptation, I’m not going to talk about cases from other countries.”
While mainstream media focused on some of the low-hanging fruit in his remarks, others who apparently watched his speech, posted by Notre Dame, expressed outrage at what they saw as his intolerance of freedom of and from religion, intolerance toward women, and mocking those who dare criticize his attack on the right to abortion.
NYU professor Barbara Malmet, an artist, activist, triathlete, and producer with a large Twitter following, did not hold back in denouncing Alito's remarks.
"Alito working the room, basking in the laughs. Bearded, in a tux, at a religious liberty speech in Rome. He thinks it’s a joke that women no longer have agency over their own bodies in many states in America because of his own religious beliefs?" she tweeted.
Hours later, she added, "I am still spinning about Alito in Rome at a Notre Dame event, cracking jokes about his devastating abortion ruling while women are reeling here."
Well-known economist David Rothschild, an avid commentator, went on the attack.
"Cannot get over mix of arrogance, entitlement, general derision towards American people & democracy that Republican Partisan Hack in Robes Alito showed in speech trashing foreign leaders in Rome to laughing audience of (what I can only assume) are also authoritarian misogynists," he said.
Added novelist and screenwriter Paul Rudnick, "Samuel Alito made a speech in Rome praising the repeal of Roe and condemning the left for a 'hostility to religion.' ... His religion is a weapon of mass destruction."
Other social media critics were equally angered.
"If Justice Alito wants to claim overturning Roe v Wade was based entirely on law," remarked award-winning investigative reporter Paul Barry, "it's maybe better not to do it at a conference on religious freedom in Rome."