Alito and Roberts, secretly recorded at the Gala, share markedly different worldviews

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. She told a woman posing as a Catholic conservative last week that a compromise between the left and right in America might be impossible, then she endorsed the idea that the nation should return to a place of godliness.

“One side or the other is going to win,” Justice Alito told wife Lauren Windsor at an exclusive Supreme Court gala. “There may be a way of working, a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really cannot be compromised.”

MS. Windsor placed more emphasis on Justice Alito. “I think the solution really comes down to winning the moral argument,” she told him, according to edited recordings of Justice Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., which were released and widely distributed on social networks Monday. “For example, the people of this country who believe in God must continue to fight for this, to return our country to a place of godliness. »

“I agree with you, I agree with you,” he replied.

The judge’s comments appeared to contrast sharply with those of Chief Justice Roberts, who was also secretly recorded at the same event but who responded to Ms. Windsor’s assertion that the court had an obligation to lead the country on a more “moral” path.

“Would you like me to be responsible for putting the nation on a more moral path? said the chief justice. “It’s for the people we elect. It’s not for lawyers.

MS. Windsor pressed the chief justice on the subject of religion, saying, “I believe the founders were pious, as were the Christians, and I think we live in a Christian nation and our Supreme Court should guide us in this.” way. »

Chief Justice Roberts quickly responded, “I don’t know if that’s true. »

He added: “I don’t know if we live in a Christian nation. “I know a lot of Jewish and Muslim friends who would perhaps say no, and it’s not our role to do that. »

The chief justice also said he did not believe the polarization in the country was beyond repair, noting that the United States had handled crises as serious as the Civil War and the Vietnam War.

When Ms. Windsor asked him if he thought the court had “a role to play” in “guiding us toward a more moral path,” the chief justice’s response was immediate.

“No, I think the role of the court is to decide cases,” he said.

The justices were secretly recorded at an annual black-tie event for the Supreme Court Historical Society, a charity aimed at preserving the court’s history and educating the public about the court’s role. The gala was open only to members, not journalists, and tickets cost $500.

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but the charity issued a statement Monday saying its “policy is to ensure that all participants, including the justices, are treated with respect.”

The charity added: “We condemn the surreptitious recording of judges at the event, which is inconsistent with the spirit of the evening. »

MS. Windsor describes herself as a documentary filmmaker and “activist journalist.” She has a reputation for approaching conservatives, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.

She said in an interview Monday that she felt she had no other way to report the judges’ candid thoughts.

“We have a court that has refused to submit to any accountability – it is shrouded in secrecy,” Ms. Windsor said. “I don’t know how, other than hiding, I could have gotten answers to these questions.”

MS. Windsor would not say how she recorded the meetings, except that she did not tell the justices that she was a journalist or that they were recorded. She said she felt she had to secretly record the judges to ensure her account would be credible.

“I wanted them to be recorded,” she said. “So recording them was the only way to have proof of this encounter. Otherwise, it’s just my word against theirs.

Some journalism ethics experts have questioned his tactics.

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said the episode was reminiscent of tactics used by Project Veritas, a conservative group well known for using secret recordings to embarrass its political opponents.

“I think it’s fair to say that most ethical journalists deplore these kinds of techniques,” Ms. Kirtley said. “How do you expect your readers or viewers to trust you if you spin your story through deception? »

Bob Steele, a retired ethics researcher at the Poynter Institute, has written ethical guidelines for journalists on when it is appropriate to use secret recordings or conceal their identities as journalists.

“I don’t think in this particular case the level of misrepresentation of his identity and the surreptitious audio recording is justifiable,” Steele said.

The secret recording is the latest controversy surrounding the Supreme Court and its justices, particularly Justice Alito, who recently faced revelations that provocative flags were flown in front of two of his homes. The flags have raised concerns about an appearance of bias in cases currently pending in court related to the Jan. 1 affair. September 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

In the weeks following the attack, an upside-down American flag, a symbol used by Trump supporters contesting the 2020 election results, flew outside the Alitos’ suburban Virginia home. Last summer, a flag carried by Capitol rioters, known as the “Call to Heaven” flag, was flown at their New Jersey vacation home.

Justice Alito refused to recuse himself during the January hearings. 6 related cases and he said it was his wife who flew the flags.

This isn’t the first time the historical society has been in the spotlight, either. The group, which has raised millions of dollars over the past decades, made headlines after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade when a former anti-abortion leader came forward to say he used the historical society to encourage wealthy donors, whom he called “stealth missionaries,” to give money and mingle with judges.

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