Amid a growing national controversy about the gesture U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the freelance photographer who captured the moment has come forward with the picture.
“It’s inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment,” said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.
Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.
“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.
The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”
The efforts of Italian-Americans everywhere to distance themselves from crude stereotypes thereby take a body blow. The theme from "The Sopranos" should now play whenever Nino appears in public. And the bond between Scalia and hunting buddy Dick Cheney is now clear. Perhaps there is some secret international brotherhood of Go Fuck Yourself, kind of like the "Are you a turtle?" thing the astronauts had back in the 1960s.
I puzzled over this post for a while. I try hard to avoid stereotyping and ethnic slurs. (I detest, for example, the way some lefties actually tried a while back to make fun of Michelle Malkin based on her Filipino maiden name.) But how else can one discuss this incident?
Update: The other thing about this story that ought to strike a nerve is the way Scalia has now utterly trashed the gold standard for credibility. When lawyers talk about the hypothetical perfect witness, they talk in terms of bishops and priests and, yes, judges. So a Justice of the Supreme Court has always been seen as incorruptible and scrupulously honest. And here we have a Supreme acting like common thug, and then lying about what he saw a photographer capture. The arrogance is mind-boggling, but the lowering of standards for judicial honesty is perhaps the greater outrage.
Update #2: The Boston Archdiocese has now fired the photographer. No good deed goes unpunished by the Church.