The Cover-Up of Alito’s True Opinion on Roe

On Tuesday morning, Princeton’s daily student newspaper published on article online about Samuel Alito that caused a momentary storm. The paper wrote:

[Alito’s senior thesis adviser Walter] Murphy said he and Alito agree that the 1973 landmark abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

On Tuesday morning, the story began to quickly gain wider circulation. Fred Barbash at Washington Post’s Campaign for the Court blog emailed Murphy to determine whether the reporting was accurate. Murphy adamantly claimed that he “did NOT say that Sam & I agreed that Roe was wrongly decided.” He offered this striking clarification:

The point I was trying to make was that, even if Sam thought that Roe was wrong, he would not necessarily vote to overturn it.

The Princetonian subsequently offered a correction, claiming there was a “misinterpretation.” It was hard for us to believe. So we contacted the Princetonian and asked the paper if Murphy had told them that he believed Alito would not vote to overturn Roe. Here’s their response:

Based on a review of our transcript, Professor Murphy did not tell us that even if Judge Alito believed Roe to be wrongly decided, he would not necessarily vote to overturn it. Though we’re not sure why it was suggested that this was said in the interview, we’re reluctant to draw any conclusions. That said, had the transcript reflected the assertion that Judge Alito would be unlikely to overturn Roe, we would most certainly have included the point in the story, given the importance of this claim.

What we know is Murphy’s account dramatically changed once he realized that his comments were receiving greater media attention. What we still don’t know is Alito’s true opinion on Roe.