The Washington Post Ignored a Distress Signal

Indignity Vol. 4, No. 91

The Washington Post Ignored a Distress Signal
United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)


"MY WIFE IS fond of flying flags," Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote to Sens. Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. "I am not." 

Alito was writing to reject the senators' request to Chief Justice John Roberts that Alito recuse himself from any cases involving Donald Trump or the 2020 election. Earlier this month, the New York Times had reported that an upside-down American flag had flown outside Alito's house in Virginia in January 2021—a time when Trump's supporters, including the ones who had attacked the Capitol on January 6, were frequently displaying the inverted flag. The Times followed that with the news that another flag favored by the insurrection movement, the Revolutionary War flag of a pine tree and the motto "An Appeal to Heaven," had flown outside Alito's beach house in New Jersey. 

Alito's position in the letter was that the flags were entirely the work of his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, "an independently minded private citizen," and that any resemblance between her flag choices and the insurrectionists' was purely coincidental. The upside-down flag, he claimed in the letter, as he had claimed in interviews, was Martha-Ann Alito's response to neighbors who had "displayed a sign attacking her personally." 

The claim about the personal attack does not appear to be true; the Times' follow-up reporting had already established that the various signs that offended Martha-Ann Alito had read "BYE DON," "Fuck Trump," "You Are Complicit," and "Trump Is a Fascist," none of which mentioned her by name. According to the Times, it was the "Fuck Trump" sign that she'd originally complained about. Samuel Alito's story only makes sense if Martha-Ann Alito took anti-Trump messages as personal insults, which would mean that his wife had chosen to fly a pro-Trump flag as a gesture of antagonism toward anti-Trump people, even while claiming not to know it was a pro-Trump flag.