Alito: CAP and Credibility

In today’s hearings, Republican Senators have tried to dismiss concerns raised by Samuel Alito’s membership in the reactionary Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP). His supporters offered new explanations for why Alito joined the group, but today’s hearings only raised more questions.  CAP was notorious for its hostility to the increasing gender and racial diversification of Princeton, and it strains credulity for Alito to claim that he was not familiar with its controversial positions.

Alito on CAP: Yes.  No. Maybe. I don’t remember.

In 1985, Alito bragged in writing about his membership in CAP (which he described as “a conservative alumni group”) when he thought it would help him get a higher-level job in the Reagan administration.  More recently, he stated in his answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire that he did not remember his membership in the group. Today, in response to a question from Sen. Biden, he claimed not to be aware of controversy over CAP, a group that tried to make a splash – and did – through its outrageous and divisive rhetoric.

Today, Alito played along with Republican senators who suggested that it must have been that he joined CAP because it stood up for ROTC when it was being criticized on campus. Attempting to bolster this theory, Sen. Jon Kyl introduced into the record a newspaper article that he said “expressly explains that ROTC was a core motivation behind the CAP in 1985.”  But the article Kyl submitted actually undermines Alito’s previous answer. It mentions ROTC only in passing, in a long article about the controversial nature of the organization,  and its demands for doing away with Women’s Studies, complaints about a gay student group, the admission of more minority students, the campus Third World Center, and more.           

How could you forget these guys?

CAP was a notorious right-wing group (now defunct) one of whose founders was a classmate of Alito’s.  In May 1973, a CAP founder wrote in its magazine, effectively suggesting an exclusionary quota: “Why should not a goal of 10%-20% women and minorities be appropriate for Princeton’s long term strength and future?” [1] A decade later, at around the time Alito was touting his membership, CAP was still at it:

  • In the February 1985 issue of Prospect, CAP asked: “why is the Gay Alliance [of Princeton] a student organization?  Princeton should not recognize groups based solely on sexual preference; certainly the University does not (and would not) recognize or fund a Straight Student Association or a Bestiality Society. CAP challenges [Princeton President William B.] Bowen to announce that Princeton would recognize and provide University space and money for the Ku Klux Klan group or the Nazi group.” [2]  The January 1984 Prospect included a brief that referred to members of the Gay Alliance of Princeton as “campus lispers.” [3]
  • In June 1984, Prospect published “A Lesson for Sally,” a report of the death in a mining accident of a female coal miner who had obtained her job after a successful lawsuit contesting sex discrimination. The “Lesson” ended with the chilling remark: “Sally Frank, take note.” [4]  Frank was a member of the class of 1980 and was well known to students and alumni for having “successfully sued to open the doors” of the remaining all-male eating clubs at Princeton to women. [5] 
  • An essay in the November 1983 issue of Prospect “In Defense of Elitism,” began:
People nowadays just don’t seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns black 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 that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children. [6]  

Examples like these have prompted Eyal Press in The Nation to ask:

Is the Princeton graduate slated to replace the first female Supreme Court Justice proud of his affiliation with an organization that attempted to prevent women and minorities from receiving the same education he did?  If not, why did he flaunt his membership in it?  What does this say about his character, and about the kind of place he would ultimately like America to be? [7]

The Road Not Taken (by Alito)

In 1972 CAP invited Bill Bradley, then a basketball superstar with the New York Knicks and one of Princeton’s most famous alumni, to serve on the Alumni Advisory Board of Prospect. [8]  According to Bradley, he accepted this invitation, extended “in advance of the first issue” of Prospect, for the sole purpose of helping fulfill what he called Prospect’s “stated goal, namely: ‘to provide constructive criticism . . . making sure that both sides of controversial issues are represented.’” [9]But less than a year after CAP began publishing Prospect, Bradley sent a letter announcing his resignation from the Advisory Board, stating: It is clear to me, after eight months of publication, that Prospect does not desire a balanced view within its pages but prefers to present the right-wing view within the Princeton community… Furthermore, I am in personal disagreement with the viewpoints expressed in most of the articles printed up to this time in Prospect. [10]

Senator Bill Frist, another alumnus of Princeton, played a role in denouncing CAP. The group was so destructive toward Princeton, and its tactics so reprehensible, that it was condemned in a report of a special committee of the Princeton University Board of Trustees dealing with alumni affairs. [11]  The report was co-authored by Frist and was unanimously approved and endorsed by the full Board of Trustees of the University on Oct. 24, 1975. [12]

To CAP it off

That Alito chose to join and remain a member of a group with such a disreputable agenda and record, let alone tout his membership, is extremely disturbing. And the efforts by Alito and his supporters to distance him from the group are unconvincing at best.


[1] Shelby Cullom Davis, “Preserving the Spirit of the Princeton Alumni Body,” Prospect (May 7, 1973), at 9.
[2] CAP Replies, Prospect (Feb. 1985), at 7 (emphasis added).
[3] News & Comment, “Shutting Closet Doors,” Prospect (Jan. 1984), at 3.
[4] News & Comment, “A Lesson for Sally,” Prospect (June 1984), at 3.
[5] Stephen R. Dujack, “Flagging Alito’s Alliances,” Newark Star-Ledger (Dec. 18, 2005)
[6] Harry Crocker III, “In Defense of Elitism,” Prospect (Nov. 1983), at 6.
[7] Eyal Press, “Alito the CAP Crusader,” The Nation (Dec. 12, 2005).
[8] Announcement by Concerned Alumni of Princeton, Prospect (Oct. 23, 1972), at 3.
[9] Bill Bradley, Letter to the Editor, Prospect (Sept. 10, 1973), at 6.
[10] Bill Bradley, Letter to the Editor, Prospect (Sept. 10, 1973), at 6 (emphasis added).
[11] Princeton University, Report of the Trustee Committee on Alumni Affairs (Oct. 1975).
[12] Princeton University, Report of the Trustee Committee on Alumni Affairs (Oct. 24, 1975), at 14; Memorandum from R. Manning Brown ’36, Chairman of the Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, Princeton University.
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