WASHINGTON — 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.
But the 83-year-old justice said she “wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it.”
Ginsburg made the comments to Yahoo’s Katie Couric while promoting her book “My Own Words.”
In the interview, Ginsburg steers clear from criticizing presidential candidate Donald Trump but calls the rhetoric from the election cycle “distressing.” She updates her health status, her thoughts on Hillary Clinton and Merrick Garland’s nomination and admits, to an amazed Couric, that she’s never even seen the famous parody of her on “Saturday Night Live.”
National anthem protests
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.”
In 1989, before Ginsburg joined the court, the Supreme Court held that the conviction of a man named Gregory Lee Johnson for burning the flag was inconsistent with the First Amendment.
Of the athletes, Ginsburg said, “If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.”
Ginsburg’s words were similar to the comments that the late Justice Antonin Scalia made when he was asked about his vote in favor of Johnson in the flag burning case.
“If I were king,” Scalia told CNN’s Piers Morgan in 2012, “I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged.”
“I have said everything I’m going to say about the current election,” Ginsburg told Couric and refused to discuss her comments last summer when she said she regretted calling Trump a “faker” among other comments to journalists.
She laughed, though, when Couric brought up a tweet by Trump that said Ginsburg’s “mind is shot.”
“I’m not on Twitter, and I think I would not have responded,” she said.
She also refused to speak directly to whether one could ban an entire religious group from entering the country in case that question could come before the court. But she did speak in personal terms about signs she saw as a young girl in the roadside in New Jersey that said “No dogs or Jews allowed.”
“All I can say is I am sensitive to discrimination on any basis because I have experienced that upset,” she told Couric.
She said she looked at the sign and said to herself, “I am a Jew, but I’m an American, and Americans are not supposed to say such things.”
Ginsburg said “I’m proud of the US as a country that welcomes all sorts of people.”
She called the rhetoric of the election “distressing” but said she was “hopeful it will go away.”
Clinton and Garland
Calling Garland “eminently qualified,” she reiterated her belief that the Senate should hold a vote but “it’s the Senate’s prerogative.” She added, however, that the court is “handicapped” without nine justices. Asked whether she said Clinton would re-nominate Garland, if she were to win the election, Ginsburg said, “your guess about what she would do is as good as mine.”
She also praised Clinton. “It’s very refreshing to see a woman with the knowledge that she has, with the poise and the command of language,” Ginsburg said.
During the interview, conducted before the start of the term last week, she said, “I’m still as excited about this new term about to start as I was in my first term here.” She said she “won’t be here forever,” but that at her age, she has to ask herself the question each year. “I can tell you this year, I’m fine, I’m OK … what will come next year, I don’t know.”
Ginsburg reminded Couric that she still can do 20 pushups and was dismissive when Couric asked if she performed so-called “girls pushups.”
“Oh no, no, no, the real ones,” Ginsburg responded.
She was asked about the infamous “Saturday Night Live” skit, where comedian Kate McKinnon portrays her. She said she hadn’t seen it.
“What is this SNL?” she queried.