Samuel Alito infront of upside down flag

Rob Crandall/Shutterstock rarrarorro/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Justice Alito’s full-on ‘wife guy’ defense of upside-down flag instantly becomes iconic meme

Democratic senators asked him to recuse himself in Jan. 6 cases.


Marlon Ettinger


Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito announced on Wednesday that he won’t recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 presidential election or the Jan. 6 Capitol riot after pictures were published of an upside-down American flag being displayed outside his house.

The reason, he said, was that it was his wife who flew the flag, and that he doesn’t control her.

That “my-wife-made-me-do-it” excuse was quickly mocked online by posters who riffed on the idea that Alito, a conservative hardliner on the court who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, would ever make such a modern argument in favor of women’s rights.

On the X competitor Bluesky, users absolutely ran with the bit. 

“The idea that Alito isn’t willing to tell a woman what to do is a bit of a howler,” posted Ian Bordreau.

Alito’s argument came in a letter to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Wash), who sent him a letter on May 23 asking that he recuse himself from the disputed election cases after the New York Times reported on the flag. A picture of the flag was taken on Jan. 17, 2021, just days after the riot on the Capitol, where supporters of former President Donald Trump also displayed the symbol.

At the time, Alito dissented against a decision by the Supreme Court to not review a Pennsylvania case disputing the 2020 election outcome.

But the text of his defense read as slavish “wife guy” prose.

“In considering whether this event requires recusal,” Alito wrote, “an unbiased and reasonable person would take into account the following facts. As I have stated publicly, I had nothing whatsoever to do with the flying of that flag. I was not even aware of the upside-down flag until it was called to my attention. As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days, she refused.”

His wife, Martha-Ann, Alito added, “makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so .. my wife is fond of flying flags.” 

“Honestly the ‘my wife is an independent autonomous human being and if she wants to fly a flag at our home I can’t and won’t stop her’ is probably the most post-19th-century thing Alito has ever said,” user Popehat posted on Bluesky, pointing to a screenshot where Alito claims he asked his wife to take it down but she refused.

“My wife and I own our Virginia home jointly,” Alito wrote in the letter. “She therefore has the legal right to use the property as she sees fit, and there were no additional steps that I could have taken to have the flag taken down more promptly.”

Posters also riffed on the idea that Alito’s statement made it seem like he cared more for a woman’s right to fly flags than decide on an abortion.

“*busting through the door, sweating and panting* A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO COUPS,” read one meme

Alito wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade. In it, he included references to a 19th century law that could limit access to contraception in the United States, which is seen by some anti-abortion activists as the next judicial step to pursue.

Not everybody thought that Alito’s deferential move to his wife would play well, joking former president Donald Trump wasn’t exactly a lover of wives.

“Bro is taking a gamble here….Trump won’t like showing weakness to a woman,” posted John Castiglione.

But Trump quickly came out with a post on Truth Social showing appreciation for Alito’s refusal to step aside.

“Congratulations to United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito for showing the INTELLIGENCE, COURAGE, and ‘GUTS’ to refuse stepping aside from making a decision on anything January 6th related,” Trump wrote. “All U.S. Judges, Justices, and Leaders should have such GRIT.”

But for others, Alito debased himself into an entirely new category of wife guy.

“Adding ‘flag wife guy’ to the list of wife guys,” said one. 

The internet is chaotic—but we’ll break it down for you in one daily email. Sign up for the Daily Dot’s web_crawlr newsletter here to get the best (and worst) of the internet straight into your inbox.

Share this article

*First Published:

The Daily Dot