Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued a fiery – and bizarre – Rebuttal in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday he defended himself against apparent ethical claims that have not yet been made public.
The journal published the editorial, entitled “ProPublica Misleads Its Readers,” accusing the publisher of making false accusations against the judiciary. The counterargument concerns whether Alito should have withdrawn in cases involving a billionaire named Paul Singer and whether he failed to declare gifts on his annual financial disclosure forms.
As of Tuesday night, ProPublic had not published an article on Alito.
The Journal included an editor’s note saying two reporters from ProPublica emailed the judiciary last Friday with a series of questions and requested a response by Tuesday noon, as is standard in the media.
However, other journalists quickly realized that it’s not normal to publish a rebuttal to a story that’s not even public, and wondered why the Journal would have done so.
Still, Alito’s unusual response suggests that ProPublica addressed the judge’s relationship with Singer and a previous trip where he “would have traveled in a seat that would otherwise have been unoccupied on a private flight to Alaska.”
“ProPublica points out that my failure to withdraw in these cases gave the appearance of impropriety, but that is incorrect,” Alito wrote. “I remember only speaking to Mr. Singer a couple of times … On no occasion did we discuss the activities of his companies, and we never discussed a case or matter before the court.”
Alito later added that Singer’s name never appeared on any record as a party in Supreme Court cases: “During my time on the court, I voted on about 100,000 certiorari petitions. The vast majority receive little personal attention from the judges, as even a cursory scrutiny reveals that they do not meet our requirements for review.”
The allegations are similar to those made against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. ProPublica reported extensively earlier this year For decades, Thomas embarked on lavish travel with billionaire Harlan Crow, including travel aboard private jets and a yacht, and a real estate deal in which Crow bought property from the judge and his family. Thomas’ mother still lives rent-free in one of these houses.
Alito’s ethics have come under scrutiny in the past. He was previously accused of leaking the outcome of the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, which involved the company’s religious objections to paying for some female employee contraceptives.