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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Justice Scalia makes Offensive Hand Gesture to Critics

From the Boston Herald:

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.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture, flicking his hand 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.
Although one of his sworn duties is to uphold the freedom of the press, a jocular Scalia told the shutterbug, "Don't publish that."

Scalia wrote an angry letter to the editor denying this story.

The photographer then gave his photo to the Boston Herald which documented the gesture. I urge readers to check out the photo and make their own conclusions.

"It's inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment," said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.
Despite Scalia's insistence that the Sicilian gesture was not offensive and had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald as obscene, the photographer said the newspaper "got the story right."
Smith said the jurist "immediately knew he'd made a mistake, and said, 'You're not going to print that, are you?' " ...

Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.
"The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say, 'Vaffanculo,' " punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.
The Italian phrase means "(expletive) you."

The Boston Herald is the conservative Boston Daily. They published an editorial on the gesture-gate story.