Scalia scandalizes the liberal media

Gary Bauer President, American Values
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The reactions of liberal pundits to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent interview with New York magazine have been predictably overwrought. Scalia listens to conservative talk radio! He believes in the Devil! He might not have any openly gay friends!

To liberals, all of this is proof of, in the words of a Slate headline, “[Scalia’s] remarkable isolation from anyone who doesn’t agree with him.” But it actually highlights how mainstream Scalia’s beliefs are, and how isolated and out of touch many liberals are.

On homosexuality, Scalia made it clear that he’s not “a hater of homosexuals at all” and stated the Christian teaching of hating the sin but not the sinner. He said that he has friends who he suspects are gay. When Scalia’s interviewer, Jennifer Senior, asked him if any had come out to him, he said no.

This seemed to scandalize some liberal writers. “Stop and consider, for a moment, how difficult it would be in a major American city in 2013 to construct a social world in which you might not know anybody who’s openly gay,” Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick wrote. Scalia, she continued, “seems a bit like a man living on a tiny remote island of the Supreme Court.”

But Scalia didn’t say that he doesn’t know anybody who’s openly gay. He said that nobody had confessed their homosexuality to him personally. Those are quite different things.

Liberals are obsessed with the idea that conservatives might not have any gay friends. But even if it were true that Scalia has no gay friends, it wouldn’t be that unusual. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, just 3.4 percent of American adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

And since Scalia is a political and cultural conservative, a practicing Catholic, white (non-whites are more likely to identify as LGBT, according to polls), highly educated, and a high-earner (LGBT identification is highest among those with the lowest levels of education and income, according to Gallup) and in his 70s, it wouldn’t be surprising if Scalia had no openly gay friends.

It would be about as surprising as finding out that one of the liberal justices doesn’t have any friends who are conservative Christians (who, incidentally, make up a much larger share of the population than do gays).

Scalia further scandalized liberal sensibilities by mentioning his belief in the Devil. A piece in the Daily Beast stated that Scalia “still believes in the Devil,” as if such a belief were akin to a person believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy into adulthood.

A blogger on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC blog wrote that Scalia’s belief that a “literal devil” is “a real person” is “just remarkable.” Scalia’s statement ranked as number eight in a Huffington Post list of “The 9 Weirdest Things We Learned From Scalia’s NYMag Interview.”

But, as Scalia informed Senior, belief in the Devil is “standard Catholic doctrine!” Senior, who confessed that she doesn’t believe in heaven, hell or the Devil, seemed to find this odd. “You’re looking at me as though I’m weird,” Scalia said to her, “My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil!”

This is all true. According to a recent YouGov poll, 57 percent of Americans believe in the Devil. A 2007 Gallup poll found 70 percent of Americans believe in the Devil and in hell.

Perhaps Senior found it strange that Scalia, as a member of the intellectual elite, believes in the supernatural. Maybe she’s under the impression that this belief is isolated to the least educated Americans.

But that’s not true. According to the YouGov poll, the college educated and those without a high school degree are about equally likely to believe in the Devil. As Scalia explained to Senior, “Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil!”

What seemed to scandalize the liberal media more than anything was Scalia explanation of how he consumes the news. He told Senior that he rarely listens to NPR, doesn’t read the New York Times and cancelled his subscription to the Washington Post, whose coverage of conservatives, he said, “was slanted and often nasty [and] shrilly, shrilly liberal.”

He gets most of his news from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and conservative talk radio. This, as a New York Times headline put it, was seen as proof that Scalia lives in an “echo chamber.”

But Scalia didn’t say those were the only political news sources he relies on. They’re simply what he gets delivered at home and what he listens to on his way to work.

But even if he did mostly limit himself to conservative outlets, would his seeming provincialism be any worse than that of liberal elites? Let me put it this way: Would we be surprised if Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan got most of their political news from the New York Times, Washington Post and NPR? No. In fact, we’d be surprised if they didn’t.

Let’s be clear: The liberal media was going to be scandalized and outraged by anything Scalia said. Scalia’s very existence on the court is a scandal to them. But his comments reveal someone who’s well within the American mainstream, and outrageous only to the out of touch elites in the liberal media.

Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.