RBG Award organizers scuttle gala after criticism by late Supreme Court justice’s family

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Organizers of an award named after late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg abruptly canceled this year’s awards gala when the liberal jurist’s family complained after learning that some of this year’s awards were to be given to non-liberal honorees.

The 2024 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Leadership Award, known as the RBG Award, was set to be bestowed on right-leaning media entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch, actor Sylvester Stallone, philanthropist and 1980s high-yield bond magnate Michael Milken, and businesswoman Martha Stewart. The gala was scheduled to be held at the Library of Congress on April 13.

Justice Ginsburg, a famously pro-abortion rights justice, died in September 2020. Her seat on the court is now occupied by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated by President Donald Trump. The court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, finding there was no constitutional right to an abortion and returning the regulation of the procedure to the states.

Mr. Musk, one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, founded Tesla, SpaceX, xAI, and The Boring Company. In 2022, he acquired microblogging website Twitter and changed its name to X and lifted a ban on President Donald Trump using the service, a decision that earned him the enmity of the left. He has also become a high-profile critic of wokeness.

Mr. Murdoch owns Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, book publisher HarperCollins, and myriad media outlets.

Mr. Stallone, an action movie star and filmmaker, has donated to both Republican and Democratic candidates, and supports gun control even though many of his political views lean conservative.

Mr. Milken is a prominent philanthropist known for making a fortune off of so-called junk bonds in the 1980s. He also became the face of that decade’s insider trading scandals, pleading guilty in 1990 to securities fraud and other charges. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but that term was later reduced to 2 years after he cooperated with federal investigators. President Trump pardoned him in 2020.

Ms. Stewart, a home and hospitality entrepreneur who has become a household name in the United States, was publisher of Martha Stewart Living magazine and host of two syndicated television programs. She served 5 months in federal prison ending in March 2005 for securities fraud.

The RBG Award is presented annually by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation, a private foundation headquartered in Irvine, California. The foundation’s trustees are Matthew D. Umhofer and Julie C. Opperman.

Established in 2020, the award previously recognized only women of distinction, including the late Queen Elizabeth II and entertainer Barbra Streisand. The award was expanded earlier this year to include trailblazing men and women.

In unveiling this year’s honorees on March 13, Ms. Opperman said, “Justice Ginsburg fought not only for women but for everyone.”

“Going forward, to embrace the fullness of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy, we honor both women and men who have changed the world by doing what they do best.”

Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., chair of the RBG Award, said the justice “became an icon by bravely pursuing her own path and prevailing against the odds. The honorees reflect the integrity and achievement that defined Justice Ginsburg’s career and legend.”

But the Ginsburg family criticized the foundation’s selections for this year’s awards, The Washington Post reported on March 15.

Without naming any specific prize winner, the family called the choices “an affront to the memory of our mother and grandmother.”

The choice of honorees “strayed far from the original mission of the award and from what Justice Ginsburg stood for,” according to the family’s statement.

“Her legacy is one of deep commitment to justice and to the proposition that all persons deserve what she called ‘equal citizenship stature’ under the Constitution,” the Ginsburg family said.

“She was a singularly powerful voice for the equality and empowerment of women, including their ability to control their own bodies.”

One of the justice’s former clerks, Trevor Morrison, a former dean of New York University School of Law, reportedly told Ms. Opperman in a letter that it was “deeply worrisome” that the RBG Award would be given to individuals who “exhibit none of the values that animated the justice’s career, and none of the things that she herself emphasized when celebrating the inauguration of the RBG Award.”

On March 18, the Opperman Foundation announced it would be canceling the April 13 gala banquet.

“This year we selected leaders in different fields. We honored men for the first time. We thought RBG’s teachings regarding EQUALITY should be practiced. We did not consider politics,” Ms. Opperman said, according to The Hill newspaper.

“Instead, we focused on leaders, who, in their own way, have made significant contributions to society.”

While organizers “believe each of the honorees is worthy of our respect for their leadership and their notable contributions,” the gala “will be canceled,” she said.

“It is important to note, that the last thing we intended was to offend the family and friends of RBG. Our purpose was only to remember her and to honor her leadership.”

“Over the next several months the Foundation will reconsider its mission and make a judgment about how or whether to proceed in the future,” Ms. Opperman said.

“We will consider whether there is a way forward that can bring honor and joy to the process with a minimum amount of controversy.”

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared March 19, 2024, in The Epoch Times.

Photo: The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg