Justice Scalia flips the finger in church
BOSTON, March 27 (UPI) -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by flipping a middle finger to his critics.
A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.
"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the obscene gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian."
Except that is apparently not what happened. Perhaps the UPI reporter wasn't even there and was just confused by the report from the Boston Herald and cribbed the story without verifying it on their own. Here is the Herald's story and note their stern disapproval.
Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.I wonder what the Archdiocese has done with that photograph.
“You know what I say to those people?” Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.
“That’s Sicilian,” the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the “Sopranos” challenged.
“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.
But now AP comes to the rescue to give us another version of the story.
Justice Scalia gives a sign, but no fingerCNN is buying the Supreme Court spokeswoman's version.
SUPREME COURT Was it obscene -- or just Sicilian?
A spokeswoman says Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used an Italian hand gesture after a reporter asked him a question outside a church service Sunday.
The Boston Herald reported that it was an obscene gesture, which led to some reports that Scalia used his middle finger.
A spokeswoman says Scalia used a "hand off the chin gesture," which Italians commonly use to show displeasure. Scalia used the gesture after being asked if he had to deal with much flak about his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.
The Boston Herald reported Monday that the justice made "an obscene gesture under his chin" -- which prompted some online reports that Scalia had used his middle finger.
"It was a hand off the chin gesture that was meant to be dismissive," Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.
Scalia, 70, is Italian and known for wisecracks in and out of court.
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.
I wonder how many of these reporters were actually there. Do a whole crowd of them regularly follow Scalia around when he's attending mass and giving a speech? Has anyone talked to the Herald reporter to clarify which gesture it was? And have they interviewed linguists and experts on Italian hand-gestures to get the true nuances in meaning of this mysterious gesture? Is it obscene or just dismissive? After all, reporters are supposed to be good at that sort of thing, according to Molly Ivins. Let's get to the bottom of Gesturegate.
Personally, it always seemed pretty improbable to me that Justice Scalia would go around giving the finger in response to a question in front of the church, reporters, a photographer, and presumably the parishioners on the scene. The man is not stupid.
Link via John at Stop the ACLU.