Seeking a Second Joe Wilson, Press Pounces on Alito

All Justice Alito did was shake his head and mutter. Is it really comparable to "You lie"?

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Beyond the jokey tone and the 'USA' chant, this head-shake from Justice Alito is being treated as the showstopper moment of the State of the Union:




While publicly mouthing the words "not true" is a break with the Supreme Court's austere decorum, it's hardly akin to shouting "You lie!" But that is how commentators hoping for fireworks in a tense, polarized political environment are treating it.


  • David Sessions, Politics Daily: "He was a bit quieter than Joe Wilson, and didn't quite call President Obama a liar, but Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had his moment of protest"
  • Erin Geiger Smith, Business Insider: "Supreme court gets political as Justice Alito becomes this year's Joe Wilson." Smith cites this as evidence of a more openly political Court, and guesses that Alito regrets the display.
  • Chris Cilizza, Washington Post: "The gaffe of the night? That came from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito" Cilizza cites a report from Laurie Kellman who is careful to say Alito's moment didn't have the effect of Joe Wilson. She compares them nevertheless, and says "The man in the House chamber openly disagreeing with President Barack Obama as he spoke to Congress wasn't an over-the-top Republican or a seething Democrat. He was a Supreme Court justice."

Rep. Joe Wilson, for his part, was on his best behavior. He applauded, stayed quiet, and waited politely until after the rebuttal speech to post his reply in a Facebook video chat--which roughly 350 people watched.


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.