In a pre-Dobbs world, the Washington Post deferred to a Supreme Court justice | Semafor

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In January 2021, the Washington Post’s Supreme Court reporter and his editors agreed: The upside-down American flag seen flying outside Justice Samuel Alito’s Virginia home was not, on its own, a story.

Earlier this month, that same story broke in The New York Times, which reported that Alito said his wife had raised the flag — a symbol adopted by supporters of former President Donald Trump who believed the election had been stolen from him — amid a neighborhood dispute.

Nine days after the flag scoop, a deadpan Post report acknowledged that the D.C. paper learned of the upside-down flag incident more than three years ago, but chose at the time not to report on it.

The decision was a matter of “consensus,” said Cameron Barr, the former senior managing editor, who said he takes responsibility for the decision not to run the story. The Post’s then-editor-in-chief, Martin Baron, told Semafor that he had been unaware of the story at the time.

“I agreed with [Supreme Court reporter] Bob Barnes and others that we should not do a single-slice story about the flag, because it seemed like the story was about Martha-Ann Alito and not her husband,” recalled Barr of the deliberations.

Instead, Barr said, he suggested a story on the bitter neighborhood dispute that Alito told them had prompted his wife to raise the flag. They would use the flag itself, he thought, as a detail in the story. But that story never took shape.

“In retrospect, I should have pushed harder for that story,” Barr said in a phone interview with Semafor Sunday.

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