Perhaps the generally limited access that the media has to Supreme Court justices has something to do with the media frenzy that typically accompanies anything remotely newsworthy that transpires among the nine jurists. So, when Justice Antonin Scalia responded to a Boston Herald reporter's inquiry as to whether "he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs," by making what the reporter described in a Monday article as "an obscene gesture, flicking his hand under his chin," the news tended to spread -- far and fast. And it seems that a justice making obscene hand gestures would be a fairly substantial development.
It's worth reading the entire article, which continued:
"That's Sicilian," the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the "Sopranos" challenged.E&P picked up on the Herald's report, appropriately citing an Associated Press description of said gesture as well:
"It's none of their business," continued Scalia, who was the keynote speaker at yesterday's Catholic Lawyers' Guild luncheon. "This is my spiritual life. I shall lead it the way I like."
The conduct unbecoming a 20-year veteran of the country's highest court - and just feet from the Mother Church's altar - was captured by a photographer for the Archdiocese of Boston newspaper The Pilot, whose publisher is newly minted Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
The sign he used in Boston is frequently used by Italians to express displeasure with someone from mild to deep irritation. It is done by cupping the hand under the chin and flicking the fingers like a backward wave.So maybe it wasn't really an "obscene" gesture? In a letter to the editor in today's Herald, Scalia responds:
"It has come to my attention that your newspaper published a story on Monday stating that I made an obscene gesture - inside Holy Cross Cathedral, no less. The story is false, and I ask that you publish this letter in full to set the record straight."It's also worth reading Scalia's letter in full, which continues:
Your reporter, an up-and-coming "gotcha" star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people who objected to my taking part in such public religious ceremonies as the Red Mass I had just attended. I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said "That's Sicilian," and explained its meaning - which was that I could not care less.He continued:
How could your reporter leap to the conclusion (contrary to my explanation) that the gesture was obscene? Alas, the explanation is evident in the following line from her article: "'That's Sicilian,' the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the 'Sopranos' challenged." From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene - especially when made by an "Italian jurist." (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)And that development has, of course, led to more coverage far beyond just the readership of the Herald. Controversy over or just beginning?