Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg voices regret over her 'harsh' put-down of Colin Kaepernick's protest

For the second time in recent months, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg voiced regret for unwisely sounding off in an interview.

On Friday, the liberal justice said she should not have denounced NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s silent protests during the national anthem as “dumb” and “disrespectful.”

“Barely aware of the incident or its purpose, my comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh,” Ginsburg said in a brief statement issued Friday afternoon. “I should have declined to respond.”

In July, Ginsburg similarly backed away from a series of comments expressing alarm with the prospect of Donald Trump winning the White House.

“I don’t want to think about that possibility,” she told an Associated Press reporter at the time. She told another reporter half-jokingly she was thinking of moving to New Zealand if he won. She told a CNN reporter that Trump was a “faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment.”

Realizing later that she had done much the same, she later issued a statement calling her remarks “ill-advised.”

“Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future, I will be more circumspect,” she said.

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Ginsburg, 83, has basked in the acclaim of liberal audiences drawn to her strong opinions regarding sex discrimination, contraceptives and voting rights. She agreed to do interviews this month to promote a book titled “My Own Words,” a collection of her writings and speeches.

While many of her fans may have agreed with her criticism of Trump, they were surprised earlier this week when she bluntly derided the San Francisco quarterback and his teammates for kneeling during the national anthem. Kaepernick said he was protesting the police shootings of unarmed black men.

“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg told Katie Couric from Yahoo. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No,” she continued. “I think it’s dumb and disrespectful,” comparing the act to burning a flag in protest.

“I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock up a person for doing it. … If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that.”

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Kaepernick, who plays for the San Francisco 49ers, told the San Jose Mercury News it was “disappointing to hear a Supreme Court justice call a protest against injustice and oppression ‘stupid, dumb.’”

When Ginsburg was asked by reporters to give a further explanation of her comments, she released a statement retreating from what she had said.

Despite her troubles during recent interviews, Ginsburg has continued to be a sharp and thoughtful participant in the court’s oral arguments. The justices began hearing cases last week, and Ginsburg asked probing questions of attorneys on both sides.

She has also pushed aside any talk of retirement, saying that she will stay as long as she can continue to do the demanding work.

david.savage@latimes.com

Twitter: DavidGSavage

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