Martha-Ann Alito: Wife of Supreme Court justice at heart of flag and secret recording controversies

By The Independent (World News) | Created at 2024-06-11 12:30:22 | Updated at 2024-06-17 01:23:35 5 days ago
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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito‘s wife, Martha-Ann Alito, is in the spotlight after she was secretly recorded complaining about having to look at a Pride flag.

“You know what I want?” the justice’s wife said. “I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag because I have to look across the lagoon at the Pride flag for the next month.”

Alito made the remarks during the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner in June to a woman posing as a conservative activist.

The secret recording came as Alito and her husband are embroiled in a controversy over several flags placed outside their homes in both Virginia and New Jersey that are associated with Donald Trump and the far-right.

Justice Alito blamed the incidents on his wife, insisting that he had “nothing to do whatsoever” with either of the flags. Meanwhile, Ms Alito told The Washington Post that the flags were “an international signal of distress.”

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Who is Martha-Ann Alito?

Martha-Ann Alito is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Formerly Martha-Ann Bomgardner, she was born in Kentucky and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1976, earning a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature and a master’s in library sciences the following year.

She then became a librarian at a public library in New Jersey, and later at the US Attorney’s office in Newark and the Department of Justice.

She met Justice Alito in the law library when he served as an assistant US attorney and they married five years later in 1985.

The couple have two children, Laura and Philip, who they raised mostly in New Jersey, moving to Washington in 2006 when Samuel Alito was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Bush.

Alito left her profession as a librarian to raise her kids. Since coming to Washington, she has mostly worked on apolitical issues and for charities.

In a 2006 interview with The Sunday Star-Ledger, she was described as a former Libertarian who focused most on her family.

Other than the flag incidents at her Alexandria home and their New Jersey beach house, Alito has drawn little media attention since her husband was appointed to the Supreme Court.

President George W Bush, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his Martha-Ann Bomgardner share a smile during a ceremonial swearing-in at the East Room of the White House in February 2006

President George W Bush, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his Martha-Ann Bomgardner share a smile during a ceremonial swearing-in at the East Room of the White House in February 2006 (Getty Images)

In the secret recording, she was heard saying she is German, referring to her German heritage rather than her nationality.

Her father was an air traffic controller in the Air Force, which often moved the family between postings in Texas, Florida, Maine, and Portugal’s Azores islands. Her mother worked as a librarian at the military bases.

Flag incident

Earlier this month, The New York Times revealed that an upside-down American flag was flown at Justice Alito’s Virginia home in January 2021 following the 2020 presidential election – a symbol used by the “Stop the Steal” movement supporting Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

It was subsequently revealed that an “Appeal to Heaven” flag was flown at Alito’s New Jersey vacation home, a symbol carried by rioters on January 6.

Following the revelations, Justice Alito blamed his wife for the incident, saying she put up the upside-down flag in response to a “very nasty neighborhood dispute”, which apparently involved the Alito’s former neighbor, Emily Baden, using the term “c***” in an exchange with his wife.

Baden has disputed this account, suggesting Justice Alito is “at worst outright lying” about the details of the exchange.

She claimed the exchange didn’t happen until mid-February – one month after the photo of the upside-down flag on the Supreme Court Justice’s property, published in The New York Times, was allegedly taken.

Justice Alito and Martha-Ann at a private ceremony for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court in September 2020

Justice Alito and Martha-Ann at a private ceremony for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court in September 2020 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Justice Alito has sought to distance himself from the dispute, writing in a letter published last month to more than 30 members of Congress that he was unaware the upside-down American flag was being flown. He said that when he asked his wife to take it down, she “refused”.

“My wife is a private citizen, and she possesses the same First Amendment rights as every other American. She makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so,” he wrote.

The judge then explained that he had “nothing to do whatsoever” with the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag, which was just one of the “wide variety of flags” his wife has flown over the years.

These include a flag thanking veterans, college flags, flags supporting sports teams, state and local flags, flags of nations, flags of places they visited, seasonal flags and religious flags, he wrote.

“My wife is fond of flying flags,” he wrote. “I am not.”

Amid the dispute, Democrats in the Senate and House called for Justice Alito to recuse himself from the Trump v US case – which will determine if the former president has criminal immunity –as well as Fischer v US examining if January 6 rioters were correctly charged with a specific crime.

Justice Alito responded, saying that he would not recuse himself from the cases because “this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal”.

Secret recording

Following the flags controversy, Alito was secretly recorded at the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner in June complaining about having to look at a Pride flag.

“You know what I want?” she said. “I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag because I have to look across the lagoon at the Pride flag for the next month.”

She went on to say that after stating her need for a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag, her husband responded: “Oh, please, don’t put up a flag.”

“He’s like, ‘Oh please don’t put up a flag.’ I said, ‘I won’t do it because I’m deferring to you. But when you are free of this nonsense, I’m putting it up and I’m going to send them a message every day. Maybe every week, I’ll be changing the flags,” she said.

She added that she would come up with her own flag, which would be white with yellow and orange flames and read, in Italian, “shame.”

The secret recording of Alito was posted online late Monday by Lauren Windsor, who secretly recorded the remarks while posing as a conservative activist. Windsor describes herself as a documentary filmmaker and “advocacy journalist.” However, some journalists have questioned the ethics of secret recordings and called attention to the edited nature of the material put out by Windsor.

Later on in the recording, Alito can be heard discussing the flag controversy with Windsor.

“The feminazis believe that he should control me,” she said of her husband. “So they’ll go to hell. He never controls me.”

According to the recording, Windsor later told Alito that she was upset by the attention that “the media” has devoted to the significance of the flags and whether Samuel Alito ought to recuse himself from two January 6-related cases in light of the revelations.

Alito then offered some advice to Windsor: “Don’t get angry,” she said. “Get even.”

A bit later, when Windsor lamented how “they’re persecuting you, and you’re like a convenient stand-in for anybody who is religious,” Alito suggested that she was going to “come after” the media.

“Look at me. I’m German, from Germany. My heritage is German. You come after me, I’m going to give it back to you. And there will be a way—it doesn’t have to be now—but there will be a way they will know. Don’t worry about it,” she said, before quoting the Bible.

“Psalm 27 is my psalm,” she told Windsor. “‘The Lord is my God and my rock. Of whom shall I be afraid?’ Nobody.”

Windsor also published a separate recording of Justice Alito from the same night in which he agreed the US should “return to a place of godliness.”

“People in this country who believe in God have got to keep fighting for that — to return our country to a place of godliness,” Windsor told Justice Alito.

“I agree with you. I agree with you,” he responded.

He was also heard agreeing with the statement from Windsor that there is “no negotiating with the radical left.”

“I think you’re probably right: One side or the other is going to win. I mean there can be a way of working, a way of living together peacefully, right? It’s difficult because there are differences on fundamental things that can’t be compromised,” he said.

Past controversies

Although Alito has mostly stayed out of the public eye, she has had a few moments in the spotlight.

In 2014, she was accused of being involved in leaking the 2014 Supreme Court decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case before the Court had ruled.

The justices decided that corporations were not required to provide insurance covering certain forms of contraception to their employees if this violated their religious beliefs. The ruling was authored by Justice Alito.

A report by Politico said the leak originated from a family that was known to socialize with the Alitos.

Alito drew controversy before that when she burst into tears and left the room during her husband’s confirmation hearing.

“It was very spontaneous,” she told The Sunday Star-Ledger. “And it was simply that one can endure blows, but when tenderness comes into the mix, your reserves are pretty much shot, at least for me.”

When Alito has spoken in public, she has often criticized the scrutiny her family faced in the lead-up to and during Justice Alito’s confirmation hearings.

“The two months preceding were the horrible part of our life,” she said as she introduced her husband at an awards ceremony in 2007. “Fortunately, I was not in Washington, so I did not have to read the papers or look at the blogs or look at the computer, and I have continued that standard — I no longer read except when I choose to pick up a book.”

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