Alito Disavows Controversial Group

Samuel Alito said he did not recall joining Concerned Alumni of Princeton.
Samuel Alito said he did not recall joining Concerned Alumni of Princeton. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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By Dale Russakoff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 12, 2006

As a Princeton alumnus and professional basketball player, Bill Bradley in 1973 renounced his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, calling it a "right wing" organization that opposed the admission of women and minorities to the school.

Two years later, another distinguished alumnus and future U.S. senator, Bill Frist, co-wrote a report denouncing the group for "grossly inaccurate" attacks on the school's policies and a "narrow ideological perspective" that had done "a disservice to the university."

Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s membership in this group, which he touted among his conservative credentials in a 1985 application for a political appointment in the Reagan Justice Department, touched off a bruising political battle yesterday during the third day of confirmation hearings.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and other Democrats demanded to know why the son of an Italian immigrant would take credit for membership in a "radical" group that opposed increased enrollment of women and minorities, while Republicans and a White House spokesman branded that line of questioning as "pathetic," "scurrilous" and an effort to assign "guilt by association."

The group was founded in 1972 by Princeton alumni who were troubled that the university had recently begun admitting women and who said Princeton had lowered its standards to admit more minorities.

Alito, a 1972 Princeton graduate, testified yesterday that he has no recollection of joining the group, and that he would not have done so if he had known of its writings about women and minorities. "I deplore those statements," he said. "I would never be a member of an organization that took those positions."

He said he assumes he joined only because he supported the return of ROTC to the Princeton campus. As an undergraduate, Alito was a member of Princeton's Army ROTC unit when it was expelled from the campus -- a move that he said "rankled" him because "the attitude seemed to be that the military was a bad institution and that Princeton was too good for the military."

The Army ROTC unit was back on campus by the time Alito wrote his 1985 job application, but he said the Navy and Air Force units were not.

Throughout its existence, the now-defunct group was widely reported in major newspapers and magazines to be against increased admission of minorities and women -- positions advanced in its magazine, fliers and letters to alumni. Republicans released a 1985 newspaper article that said the group also was defending the Army ROTC unit then.

Democrats declared themselves "incredulous" that Alito was unaware of the group's attitudes toward women and minority students, and that his explanations for why he joined the group and mentioned it on an application did not add up. Kennedy read aloud a number of passages from the group's magazine, Prospect, that attacked women, minorities and gays.

One 1983 article, titled "In Defense of Elitism," began: "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic. The physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports. And homosexuals are demanding the government vouchsafe them the right to bear children."

Alito said he had never seen the article and called the views in it "antithetical" to his beliefs. Republicans released disclaimers from Prospect saying that all articles reflected the opinions of the authors and were not official positions of Concerned Alumni of Princeton.


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