Justice Alito Blames Wife for Controversial Flags Flying Outside His Home

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 31, 2024

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has blamed his wife for flying two controversial flags outside of two different properties owned by the Alitos.

Since it was reported that these two flags flew outside Alito’s homes for a time being, many in Congress and the public have called for the justice to recuse himself from upcoming cases involving January 6 or former President Donald Trump.

An Upside Down Flag

Controversy first escalated when it was reported that an American flag flew upside down for a short time frame outside of Alito’s home in Virginia. This flag was purportedly flown outside of his house in January 2021, around the events of January 6.

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A close-up of an American flag.

Source: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

Many critics have quickly pointed out that this upside-down flag was often seen being carried by those who participated in the January 6 Capitol riot.

What an Upside-Down Flag Means

There are a few different meanings that could come from an upside-down American flag. Historically speaking, upside-down flags were only used in times of war when one was trying to signal a sign of distress.

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An American flag flying on a pole amid a cloudy blue sky.

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In the last 50 years, inverted flags have been used as a sign of protest. However, the U.S. flag code, which isn’t enforceable legally at all, states that one must not invert a flag unless in distress.

Alito Blames Wife for Inverted Flag

After the news broke that an upside-down flag flew at Alito’s Virginia home — around the same time that others had the same flag while storming the Capitol — Justice Alito came out to explain the situation.

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A close-up of Justice Samuel Alito smiling.

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According to Alito, he didn’t flow this flag at his home at all. Instead, it was all his wife’s doing.

A Neighborhood Dispute

Alito has explained that his wife had gotten into a dispute with their neighbor. The justice further stated that this was “a very nasty neighborhood dispute.”

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A close-up of an American red, white, and blue flag.

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She flew this flag in response to this situation. Alito eventually realized the flag was upside down and asked her to take it down. However, she refused to do so for several days.

Another Flag Incident

This wasn’t the only flag incident that has since come to light. Recent reporting has also confirmed that an “Appeal to Heaven” flag was seen flying outside the Alitos’ New Jersey shore home in 2023.

Protestors holding an Appeal to Heaven flag alongside an American flag.

Source: Becker1999/Wikimedia Commons

This “Appeal to Heaven” flag has ties way back to the Revolutionary War. However, it has since been taken up by Christian Nationalism groups.

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Both Flags Were Seen at the January 6 Attack

Thanks to both of these separate incidents, Justice Alito has now found himself in much controversy. Both flags were flown by the participants of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

A close-up of a white and green Appeal to Heaven flag being held by a protestor.

Source: Anthony Crider/Wikimedia Commons

This has led many in Congress, as well as in the public, to call for Alito to recuse himself from any cases that may have to do with Trump or January 6, as they feel he cannot be fair and balanced.

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Alito’s Letter

This outrage from Congress has led Alito to write a letter where he rejects calls for him to recuse himself from upcoming cases. According to Alito, all of these flag incidents were because of his wife. He had nothing to do with them.

A close-up of the U.S. Supreme Court building seen in the daytime.

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Alito further stated in this letter that he had nothing to do with his wife’s decision to fly either of these flags. “My wife is fond of flying flags,” he wrote. “I am not.”

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A Coincidence?

This letter also saw Alito explain that he and his wife had no idea that these two flags had been taken up by very partisan groups — many of which stormed the Capitol on January 6.

The U.S. Capitol building seen underneath a cloudy sky.

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Alito wrote, “I was not aware of any connection between this flag and the ‘Stop the Steal Movement,’ and neither was my wife. She did not fly it to associate herself with that or any other group.”

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Democrats Go After Alito

These latest situations have caused Democrats in Congress to go after Alito, as they feel he cannot be impartial in upcoming cases thanks to these flags seen at his homes.

Dick Durbin speaking into a microphone with American flags behind him.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse have even tried to meet with Chief Justice John Roberts to discuss these flags flown at Alito’s home. However, Roberts declined to have this meeting.

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Oversight of the Supreme Court

These flags at Alito’s home have resulted in Democrats in Congress calling for further oversight of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court building seen behind a cherry blossom and an American flag.

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However, some top Democrats, notably Durbin, have resisted these calls for more oversight thus far. Instead, Durbin believes Alito should simply recuse himself from upcoming cases — something Alito refuses to do.

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Alito Will Not Recuse Himself at All

In this recent letter written by Alito, the justice stated that there’s no reason for him to recuse himself.

An official photo of all of the Supreme Court justices in 2022.

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

“A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal,” he wrote.

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