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Scalia: My Gesture Was Jocular

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says his gesture was not obscene, but jocular. We wrote here Tuesday about Scalia's GestureGate, the controversy over whether he made an inappropriate gesture with his hand as he left a Catholic Lawyers' Guild Mass in Boston on Sunday, as the Boston Herald first reported. Scalia responded with a letter to the Herald's editor, which the newspaper reproduced here and also wrote about. (Associated Press also covered the letter, via

In the letter, Scalia said the report that he made an obscene gesture was false.

"Your reporter, an up-and-coming 'gotcha' star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people who objected to my taking part in such public religious ceremonies as the Red Mass I had just attended. I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said, 'That’s Sicilian,' and explained its meaning."

To back up his position, Scalia cites this passage from the book, "The Italians," by Luigi Barzini:

"The extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means: 'I couldn't care less. It's no business of mine. Count me out.'"

How did the reporter leap to the conclusion that the gesture was obscene? Scalia asks. Perhaps from TV, he suggests:

"From watching too many episodes of the Sopranos, your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene -- especially when made by an 'Italian jurist.' (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)"

OK, now we understand. What Scalia meant to say was he couldn't care less about his critics.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 30, 2006 at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


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