Over the weekend, protests against the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade sparked across the country and outside homes of Supreme Court Justices. Reports and video of protests taking place outside the private residences of Justices Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts and others kicked off online debates about the civic limitations of protesting and what should and should not be considered “off bounds.” The protests were heated (Kavanaugh’s neighbor organized the one outside the Justice’s home) and got pretty intense. One report started circulating that Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the draft overturning Roe, was moved with his family to “an undisclosed location.”
That rumor spread like wildfire as proof of just how out-of-control the protests were getting, but there was just one problem: There’s no evidence Alito made any such move.
It’s not entirely clear where the rumor got started. Politico interviewed author and lawyer Ilya Shapiro, who told Fox News that he had “heard that Justice Alito has been taken to an undisclosed location with his family.” Shapiro told Politico that he didn’t remember who had told him that. “I forget whether I saw the rumor on Twitter or somebody told me,” Shapiro told Politico. “I don’t know.”
The same rumor appeared on Brietbart, which only cited “rumors around D.C.,” without any further details or context. On Twitter, a woman named Kristan Hawkins posted that “Justice Alito and his family have been moved to an undisclosed location. Let us pray for he and his family’s safety.” That tweet had over six thousand retweets as of this writing, but the woman has no apparent connection to Alito, nor does she seem to be connected to any news or political organizations. She is listed as the host of “Explicitly Pro-Life Podcast.”
None of this means that Alito didn’t actually move to an undisclosed location. An attendee at a Nashville, Tennessee, legal conference — at which Alito was supposed to speak — noted that the Justice delivered his address by video, “which could suggest there was an abrupt change in Alito’s plans.” But there has been no confirmation of the rumor one way or the other, despite requests for comment. Until we know more, spreading this rumor is irresponsible and only inflames a sense of division. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the rumor from spreading — even among elected officials who should know better.