““Remember: it was Alito’s opinion that leaked. That fact paired with his politicized remarks below should be alarming to anyone.” ”
That was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) responding to a viral speech that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gave in Rome.
A bearded Alito delivered a keynote address for Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative on Thursday that focused on religious freedom. And he has since drawn some controversy for mocking “foreign leaders” — including outgoing U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron — who all spoke out against the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to repeal Roe v. Wade, which had established a constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. for decades.
As Ocasio-Cortez noted, Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May, more than a month before the Supreme Court gave its official decision on June 24. Alito did not comment on the leak during his speech. And it is still not publicly known whether the Court is investigating the leak, as Chief Justice John Roberts had ordered in May.
Alito’s remarks in Rome were the first time he has spoken publicly since Roe v. Wade was overturned, and the U.S. became one of four countries to have rolled back abortion rights since 1994, joining El Salvador, Nicaragua and Poland.
“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders,” Alito said Thursday, adding that these officials felt “perfectly fine commenting on American law.”
He mistakenly referred to Johnson as a “former Prime Minister,” even though Johnson won’t officially step down until September in light of several scandals. Alito joked that Johnson “paid the price,” which drew some laughs in the audience. He then noted that Macron and Trudeau are “still in office.”
Alito also called out what he referred to as a “growing hostility to religion” in the West, adding, “religious liberty is under attack in many places, because it is dangerous to those who want to hold complete power. It also probably grows out of something dark and deep in the human DNA — a tendency to distrust and dislike people who are not like ourselves.”
Critics including Ocasio-Cortez questioned the appropriateness of Alito’s remarks about religion and foreign leaders, noting the comments put the impartiality of the justice himself as well as that of highest court of the land into question. “The Supreme Court is in a legitimacy crisis,” she wrote.
Alito’s speech went viral, leading his name to trend on Twitter on Friday. “These [justices] are rightwing political actors and aren’t even trying to hide it,” tweeted MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan.
Jezebel writer Laura Bassett described Alito as “gloating” over repealing Roe v. Wade during an “international comedy tour.”
Representatives for Alito and the Supreme Court were not immediately available for comment.
For more information about the repeal of Roe v. Wade, and how this is impacting Americans: