Campus conservatives criticize Scalia coverage
Conservative student leaders on campus criticized the media’s coverage of the interaction between Duncan Hosie ’16 and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, arguing that the story was over-covered and that coverage generally misrepresented Scalia’s views.
During the Monday afternoon lecture, Hosie asked Scalia a question challenging Scalia’s comparisons of laws banning sodomy to laws banning bestiality and murder in his written opinions. Scalia defended himself, setting off a firestorm of media coverage that conservative students say was misguided. The story appeared on the home pages of news sites like The Huffington Post and New York Magazine, and Hosie appeared on MSNBC Monday night discussing Scalia’s views on homosexuality.
Former Princeton Pro-Life President Natalie Scholl ’13 said the media’s coverage was unnecessarily extensive, given that the interaction was a small portion of a talk that focused on a variety of other topics.
“It was a 30-second question; it didn’t take up much time. It wasn’t the point of the talk, and as I said, that’s what everyone has honed in on,” Scholl said. “It’s kind of bothered me because I feel like [the media was] just looking for drama and not necessarily caring about the accuracy of what was going on there.”
Princeton Tory publisher Toni Alimi ’13 criticized the media’s interpretation of Scalia’s view, noting that Scalia did not equate homosexuality with murder, as some media organizations insinuated.
“The problem isn’t necessarily the question that was posed. I think that it’s a perfectly legitimate question,” Alimi said of Hosie’s challenge to Scalia. “The problem that I had is that it seemed that a lot of the reaction in the media has largely misunderstood what I take to be Justice Scalia’s argument.”
Students also voiced complaints about The Daily Princetonian’s coverage of the Scalia lecture, arguing that the initial story’s headline — “Scalia defends opposition to gay rights in response to question at Princeton” — did not accurately portray the intent of Scalia’s comments.
“The headline was completely false in that it sort of stated that Scalia was defending his own personal views against gay marriage, which is not at all what the point of the comment was,” College Republicans secretary Chris Goodnow ’14 said.
“I do think the ‘Prince’ article headline was a little misguided,” said Anthony Paranzino ’14, former chair of the Cliosophic Party, the center-right party of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. “I didn’t think that was the primary takeaway from the event.”
At the event, Hosie — who is gay, and identifies as conservative on economic issues and liberal on social issues — said he was offended by the language of Scalia’s dissent in the Lawrence v. Texas case, which overturned an anti-sodomy law.
“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?” Scalia said in response.
While some conservative students thought Scalia’s remarks and reasoning were justified, others agreed with Hosie and found them to be offensive to the gay community.
“He was appropriate in response, and he gave a strong answer. I was impressed,” Paranzino said.
Paranzino also praised Scalia, who concluded his response to Hosie by saying, “I’m surprised you weren’t persuaded.”
“This just shows the sense of humor Scalia has, and I’m glad that he took it in stride,” Paranzino said.
Goodnow, however, said Hosie’s question was misinformed and based on “an incorrect reading of Justice Scalia’s dissent.”
“I had no problems with [Scalia’s] response at all,” Goodnow said. “Justice Scalia’s heard this sort of false equivocation been going on for a long time, this false equation, so he was probably tired of it, so his remark was characteristically snarky but nothing that I found any problems with.”
Alimi defended Scalia’s language in his dissent for Lawrence v. Texas.
“I think posing his statement in this very stark way was an intentional move by him to get people to sit up and pay attention to his argument,” he said.
Goodnow and David Will ’14, vice president of the College Republicans, also interpreted Scalia’s statements as a legitimate execution of the rhetorical tactic known as “reduction to the absurd,” which Scalia cited as his reason for referencing bestiality and murder to support his stance.
However, Will found Scalia’s language in the particular section quoted by Hosie in his question to be offensive and inappropriate.
“What [Scalia] saw as an effect I more see as a provocation, and that type of language is inappropriate completely,” Will said. “Those comparisons, comparing gay sex to murder — I think that was the comparison — are completely unacceptable and wrong.”
Will is also a columnist for the ‘Prince.’
Regardless of their opinions on Scalia’s dissent and response to Hosie, conservative student leaders were generally supportive of Hosie’s decision to ask his question.
“What he did takes guts, and he has done a great job,” Will said.
“Credit to Duncan for asking the question,” Paranzino commented. “I think Duncan did a fantastic job on MSNBC.”
Goodnow said he had objections to the validity of Hosie’s question. “The question that he offered was an incorrect reading of Justice Scalia’s dissent,” Goodnow said. “The question in and of itself was misinformed,” he added.