A day after I suggested that before too long those statues and memorials to Justice Ruth Bader Gingsburg would be torn down, this comes out. Part of the comments had already been public, but crucially they were made in 2016, before the Cult of George Floyd completely redefined America and people were purged from public life and fired from their jobs for a fraction of what she said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, never shy to weigh in on the controversies of the day, said she thinks “it’s really dumb” for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others to refuse to stand for the national anthem.
Of Kaepernick and others she says, she thinks their actions are “dumb and disrespectful”.
“I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
Since our society now has the attention span of a hummingbird, this was quickly forgotten. But now that Katie Couric, on the last stage of her misbegotten career is flogging her own memoir, we heard about the comments that were edited out.
Ginsburg went on to say that such protests show a ‘contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life.’
She said: ‘Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from…as they became older they realize that this was youthful folly. And that’s why education is important.’
Even in 2016, this was dangerous territory.
RBG was entitled to say it. After all she was the daughter of an immigrant who grew up much less well off than Colin Kaepernick. But she was also a lady in her eighties who was echoing an older liberalism that was now being rejected. There had been such tensions before during her interviews. And this raises the question of how many of those interviews were edited. Especially considering what came next.
Couric writes that she was ‘conflicted’ because she was a ‘big RBG fan’, referring to Ginsburg’s moniker.
But Couric writes in her memoir that she thought the justice, who was 83 at the time, was ‘elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.’
Couric called a friend, David Brooks, a New York Times journalist, who advised her that Ginsburg probably didn’t understand the question, even though she was still serving on the Supreme Court at the time.
However David Westin, the former head of ABC News, advised Couric to keep it in.
‘She’s on the Supreme Court. People should hear what she thinks,’ he said, according to Couric.
According to Couric, she ‘wanted to protect’ Ginsburg and felt that the issue of racial justice was a ‘blind spot’ for her.
Brooks’ condescension is a little surreal. If he thought that RBG was that mentally out to lunch, shouldn’t he have encouraged the exposure of an unqualified justice?
But that’s not the interesting part.
The day after the sit-down, the head of public affairs for the Supreme Court emailed Couric to say the late justice had ‘misspoken’ and asked that it be removed from the story.
Asking that comments which would raise questions about prejudicing a court case be removed would be one thing, but there’s no realistic scenario in which this would have become a Supreme Court case. Did the request to remove the comments come from RBG or from some political operatives who were concerned with controlling narratives, or who were riding herd on RBG?
Any of those scenarios would raise a good deal of questions, especially during the Biden era.