U.S. Supreme Court

Journalist Katie Couric says she withheld part of Justice Ginsburg's 2016 interview to protect her

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Journalist and author Katie Couric has revealed in her new memoir that she edited out U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s most controversial comments criticizing people who kneel during the national anthem.

Couric wrote in the memoir Going There that she wanted to protect Ginsburg, then 83, who was “elderly and probably didn’t fully understand the question.”

The Daily Mail broke the story, noted by the Volokh Conspiracy and How Appealing. The New York Post followed with its own story.

Couric edited out part of the 2016 interview in which Ginsburg said football players who kneel during the anthem are showing “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life … which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from. … As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly. And that’s why education is important.”

In the portion of the interview that did air, Ginsburg said: “I think it is really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it is dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it is 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. But it is dangerous to arrest people for conduct that doesn’t jeopardize the health or well-being of other people. It is a symbol they are engaged in.”

After a follow-up question, Ginsburg said in the segment that aired: “If they want to be stupid, there is no law that should prevent that. If they want to be arrogant, there is 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.”

A day after the interview, the Supreme Court’s public affairs office said Ginsburg had “misspoken” and asked Couric to remove her comments on kneeling from the story, the memoir revealed.

Ginsburg released a statement after the interview in which she said her comments were “inappropriately dismissive and harsh,” and she commented even though she was “barely aware of the incident or its purpose.”

“I should have declined to respond,” Ginsburg said.

Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, took issue with the suggestion that Ginsburg was elderly and may not have fully understood the question.

“Oh, come on,” Blackman wrote. “Ginsburg was sharp as a tack. Until the end, she was one of the most aggressive questioners on the court.”

Ginsburg died in September 2020 at age 87.

Couric’s memoir will be released Oct. 26.

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