Secret recordings of Justice Alito and wife Martha-Ann come on heels of flag controversy. A look at the recent Supreme Court issues.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is facing renewed scrutiny after a secret recording captured him speaking candidly about how compromise between the political left and right might be impossible. Alito was also heard agreeing with the woman who surreptitiously recorded him that America should return "to a place of Godliness."

In another secret recording, Alito's wife, Martha-Ann, can be heard complaining about having to look at a Pride flag being flown in her neighborhood. It's the latest bout of controversy surrounding the Alitos after they came under fire recently for flying flags associated with efforts to overturn the 2020 election at their homes.

The secret recordings of the Alitos are the latest in a series of recent incidents involving Supreme Court justices and their families.

Here’s what happened with the recordings and why it matters:

🎙️ The secret recordings

The secretly taped audio of the Alitos released on Monday was recorded by an advocacy filmmaker Lauren Windsor, who said she posed as a religious conservative ally when speaking with them at the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner last week. (The Alitos were unaware they were being recorded, though Windsor was legally allowed to do so in Washington, D.C. as long as one party consented to the recording.)

Read more: Justice Alito Caught on Tape Discussing How Battle for America 'Can't Be Compromised'

Windsor asked Alito his thoughts on whether the polarization of the left and right will end, or if it boils down to one side winning. Alito can be heard saying to Windsor, “One side or the other is going to win. [...] There can be a way of working, a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised.”

Windsor then spoke to Alito about matters of morality saying, “I think that the solution really is like winning the moral argument. Like, people in this country who believe in God have got to keep fighting for that, to return our country to a place of godliness.”

“I agree with you,” Alito responded.

🏳️‍🌈 Another Alito flag controversy

Windsor also posed as a conservative supporter when she secretly recorded Alito’s wife at the same event.

“You know what I want?” Martha-Ann can be heard asking Windsor. “I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag because I have to look across the lagoon at the Pride flag for the next month.” Martha-Ann then described her husband’s reaction: “He’s like: ‘Oh, please, don’t put up a flag.’”

Martha-Ann agreed that she wouldn’t put up the flag for now, but vowed that when her husband was “free of this nonsense” that she would put it up “to send them a message every day, maybe every week. I’ll be changing the flags.”

Martha-Ann’s secretly-recorded comments to Windsor come after two different reports that controversial flags were flown at two of the Alitos’ homes in recent years.

One instance was in the weeks following the 2020 presidential election when an upside-down American flag was flown outside their Virginia home. The upside-down flag is a longtime symbol used in dire distress and was adopted by supporters of former president Trump when he challenged Joe Biden's victory in 2020.

Another instance was last summer when an "Appeal to Heaven" flag appeared outside the Alitos' New Jersey summer home, another flag that has become associated with Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Alito insisted he was not familiar with the flag connotations saying in a May 2024 letter to Congress, "My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not." Alito added he didn't have anything to do with either flag incidents and said Martha-Ann "makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so."

🏛️ Other recent SCOTUS controversies

The incident marked the latest public controversy involving a Supreme Court justice or family member. Some other recent events include:

Last week Justice Clarence Thomas disclosed nearly $4.1 million in gifts, which included private jets and vacations over the course of 20 years.

Alito also faced scrutiny in 2023 for accepting gifts, including a fishing trip with a person who later had business before the Supreme Court, according to ProPublica.

Thomas's wife, Ginni Thomas, sent texts to Donald Trump's White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as Trump contested the 2020 election. It came as her husband was also hearing SCOTUS cases related to the 2020 election.

⚖️ Why it matters

The Supreme Court justices determine some of the most consequential cases that affect the laws and policies of the entire nation. Under the Supreme Court's non-enforceable 2023 code of conduct: "A Justice should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other relationships to influence official conduct or judgment." It also says: "A justice should perform the duties of office fairly, impartially, and diligently" and "refrain from political activity."

The Supreme Court justices aren’t held accountable by any methods, other than impeachment and they can decide which cases to recuse themselves from.

The secret recordings of Alito matter because Democrats have previously questioned the justice's political impartiality, calling on him to recuse himself from two high-profile SCOTUS cases related to Jan. 6: One that will affect former president Trump's Jan. 6 criminal case, and one regarding charges against Jan. 6 defendants. Despite the controversies coming to light, Alito has declined to recuse himself from both of these cases.

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