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Nicholas Liu

Alito attacks press for ethics reporting

A new audio recording reveals Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito bashing ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, for its coverage of him and other justices receiving undisclosed gifts from billionaires who have had cases before the court. According to the conservative justice, the outlet is not engaged in legitimate journalism about public officials but going after the court because "they don't like our decisions."

The recording was made by liberal documentary maker Lauren Windsor, who attended a $500 dinner hosted by the Supreme Court Historical Society on June 3. Posing as a religious conservative, she secretly recorded Alito making several dubious remarks in conversation with her; earlier in the week, she shared another recording from the same event in which Alito suggests that compromise with the left is not possible and that the era of political polarization can only end with one side "winning."

In the ProPublica-bashing tape, Windsor and her colleague, Ally Sammarco, approach Alito, flattering him as an "American hero" and asking him why he thought the Supreme Court "is being so attacked and being so targeted by the media these days?”

Alito was generous with his time.

“They don’t like our decisions, and they don’t like how they anticipate we may decide some cases that are coming up. That’s the beginning of the end of it,” he said. “There are groups that are very well-funded by ideological groups that have spearheaded these attacks. That’s what it is.”

Asked to elaborate, Alito brought up ProPublica, whose coverage of Justice Clarence Thomas forced him to finally admit that a luxury vacation in Bali was paid for by a major Republican donor.

“ProPublica gets a lot of money, and they have spent a fortune investigating Clarence Thomas, for example. You know, everything he’s ever done in his entire life,” Alito said. “And they’ve done some of that to me, too. They look for any little thing they can find, and they try to make something out of it.”

ProPublica's series of investigative reports, titled "Friends of the Court" and published in 2023, cast fresh scrutiny on the apparent lack of standards when it comes to some Supreme Court justices accepting gifts without reporting them. The series earned the outlet a Pulitzer Prize last month.

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