Washington Post Initially Ignored Alito Flag Story, Later Played Catch-Up


A former Washington Post journalist, speaking to the newspaper’s columnist Erik Wemple, revealed why he chose not to pursue a story about an upside-down U.S. flag seen outside Justice Samuel Alito’s home in 2021, noting he was unaware of its supposed link to the “Stop the Steal” movement.

The retired WaPo Supreme Court reporter, Robert Barnes, recalled receiving an anonymous tip about the flag and, upon visiting the Alitos’ Virginia home on January 6, 2021, discussing with the Alitos the reason behind the flag’s orientation. He concluded not to cover the story, attributing the decision to finding out that neither Justice Alito nor his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, was protesting election results or any other cause through the flag display.

Barnes further mentioned that he was oblivious to the flag’s association with the “Stop the Steal” campaign, a detail that never emerged in his dialogues about the flag’s presence.

Three years subsequent to the tip, the New York Times elevated the story to front-page news, launching a series of critical pieces on the Alitos and questioning Justice Alito’s integrity. Despite these accounts magnifying the incident, Wemple recognized that the flag’s symbolic meaning, originally a distress signal at sea now co-opted by various political factions over time, isn’t inherently malevolent or tied exclusively to insurrectionist activities.

Wemple’s article in the Post explained that the upside-down flag had been used before by various political groups, including critics of former President Donald Trump, thus showing that it’s not solely linked to January 6 or one political belief.

Still, Wemple criticized the Washington Post for initially choosing not to cover the story, arguing that the publication showed too much leniency towards the Alitos and missed a chance to set the narrative that the New York Times later capitalized on.

Additionally, the controversy involving an “Appeal to Heaven” flag linked to the Alitos stirred further discontent among some media circles, which failed to acknowledge the flag’s historical roots to the American Revolution. This misrepresentation fueled calls for Justice Alito’s recusal from upcoming significant cases, underscoring an escalated effort to influence judicial proceedings.

Kamden Mulder
Kamden Mulder

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