Alito refuses calls for recusal over display of provocative flags

FILE — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann, visit the Capitol Rotunda as the Rev. Billy Graham lay in honor there on Feb. 28, 2018. Martha-Ann Alito has built a limited public life since moving to Washington that has mainly centered on apolitical projects and charity work. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Justice Samuel Alito declined Wednesday to recuse himself from two cases arising from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol after reports that flags displayed outside his houses appeared to support the “Stop the Steal” movement.

In letters to Democratic members of Congress who had demanded his recusal, Alito said the flags, at his home in Virginia and a beach house in New Jersey, were flown by his wife, Martha-Ann.


“My wife is fond of flying flags,” the justice wrote. “I am not. She was solely responsible for having flagpoles put up at our residence and our vacation home and has flown a wide variety of flags over the years.”

In his letter Wednesday, Alito repeated his explanation for the upside-down flag while disclosing that his wife resisted his appeals to remove it.

“I had nothing whatsoever to do with the flying of the flag,” he wrote. “I was not even aware of the upside-down flag until it was called to my attention. As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days, she refused.”

Notably, Alito’s letter did not dispute that the upside-down flag conveyed support for the “Stop the Steal” movement.

Alito wrote that the “Appeal to Heaven” flag at his New Jersey beach house did not convey the meaning critics ascribed to it.

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