On Monday morning, the journalist Lauren Windsor released recordings of conversations she had with Justice Samuel Alito at a dinner held by the Supreme Court Historical Society last week. During her exchanges with the justice, Windsor made a series of conservative-wackjob-coded statements about the role of the Supreme Court, religion, and political polarization, teeing up the justice to agree with her. “I don’t know that we can negotiate with the Left in the way that needs to happen for the polarization to end,” she told Alito. “I think that it’s a matter of, like, winning.” 

Alito responded, “I think you’re probably right.” 

It’s not surprising that a right-wing ideologue would be caught on a hot mic cosigning a desire to end political polarization by achieving right-wing dominance. In what may be a more revealing moment, though, Windsor described the Court as in the midst of a “period of turmoil” and asked Alito how the it could recover from the erosion of public trust.

“I wish I knew,” Alito began, immediately before claiming to know the culprit. “It’s easy to blame the media, but I do blame them because they do nothing but criticize us.” Alito concluded, “They have really eroded trust in the Court.”

Unable or unwilling to do any self-reflection, the justice placed sole responsibility for his bad reputation at the feet of the media. At no point did Alito stop and think about why the media is criticizing the Court, or contemplate the substance of the media reporting that lowered the public’s opinion of it. Alito has repeatedly exhibited resentment for any effort to hold him accountable for his use and abuse of the extensive powers granted to him as a Supreme Court justice. But if people don’t like the Court once the media informs them of the Court’s behavior, it’s not the receipt of information that’s the problem.

This is not the first time Alito has had a vendetta with the media. In a September 2021 speech at the University of Notre Dame—a speech given just days after the Court issued a late-night, unsigned order permitting Texas’s abortion bounty hunter law to go into effect—Alito criticized “all the media and political talk about our sinister shadow docket.” He specifically attacked Adam Serwer, a writer for The Atlantic, who had recently published an article claiming that the Court effectively nullified Roe v. Wade without so much as oral argument. Alito seethed that Serwer’s plainly accurate observation was “false and inflammatory.”

Last year, Alito ran to the Wall Street Journal to issue a (p)rebuttal to ProPublica reporting on his undisclosed luxury Alaskan fishing trip with Paul Singer, a billionaire who had business before the Supreme Court. ProPublica had contacted the Supreme Court spokesperson for a comment from Alito prior to publication. Instead of responding to the outlet’s request for comment, the justice published a preemptive op-ed in a friendly outlet accusing the Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit newsroom of “misleading” its readers. ProPublica later described Alito’s unprecedented prebuttal as “hard to follow for anyone outside ProPublica since it shot down allegations…that had not yet been made.”

Sam Alito isn’t the only member of his household with a grudge against journalism, either. In another recording released by Windsor, also from the Supreme Court Historical Society event, Alito’s wife Martha-Ann suggested she is biding her time until her husband retires and she can sue members of the media for reporting on her (?) flag fanaticism. “There’s a five-year defamation statute of limitations,” she said with a laugh. “I’m gonna get them.” 

Martha-Ann also launched into a spiel from an Inglorious Basterds deleted scene about how her national background has prepared her for vengeance: “Look at me. I’m German, from Germany,” said Martha-Ann, who is from Kentucky. “My heritage is German. You come after me. I’m gonna give it back to you.”

The attitude both Alitos have towards the media is a special kind of arrogance that only grows when watered with power and unaccountability. Their apparent disdain for any public accounting of their actions is an inevitable byproduct of a belief that they are beyond reproach. Worse yet, that belief is presently justified: They’ve experienced no consequences for their public misconduct. So they see the source of their problems in the media. If they actually looked, they would see their problems in the mirror.

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