After yesterday’s discussion of Tequilagate, the pseudo-scandal in which Justice Antonin Scalia stands accused of racial insensitivity for a passing reference at oral argument to Mexico’s national drink, we received this reader email:
Scalia’s “tequila” comment from the other day reminded me of a remark he made during oral argument in Hoffman Plastics, an immigration case from a few years ago. He made some crack about illegal immigrants who could stay home all day, eat “bon bons,” and get paid for it — if the NLRB had their way. I was surprised there was no outrage over that.
Intrigued by this, we tracked down the Hoffman Plastics oral argument transcript (PDF). And here’s what we discovered:
QUESTION: If he’s smart he’d say, how can I mitigate, it’s unlawful for me to get another job.
MR. WOLFSON: Justice Scalia —
QUESTION: I can just sit home and eat chocolates and get my back pay.
MR. WOLFSON: I don’t agree that the board would have to accept such a representation….
“Chocolates”? That’s much tamer, and far less snarky, than “bonbons.”
We checked back with our tipster, who claimed a distinct recollection of “bon bons.” So here’s what we’re wondering: Might Supreme Court oral argument transcripts get “scrubbed,” a la Congressional ones?*
This seems inconceivable to us. Such shadiness would be SO Article I — like sending nasty emails about masturbation to underage male pages…
But we don’t have the audiotape, so we don’t know for sure. If you also happened to be in the Hoffman Plastic audience and can recall whether Nino referred to “chocolates” or “bon bons,” we’d love to hear from you.
Of course, even if Nino did refer derisively to bonbon-popping illegal immigrants, it might not be seen as THAT problematic. After all, there’s no negative stereotype about undocumented aliens gorging themselves on bon bons — unless they’re French.
A “bon bon” remark might be viewed as slightly un-PC, in a “Let them eat cake” kind of way. Liberals might say: “Justice Scalia, how insensitive of you to refer to illegal immigrants eating bon bons! Don’t you know that they’re working day and night to obtain the bare necessities of life — not Teuscher champagne truffles?”**
But compared to other controversial things Justice Scalia has said (and done) over the years, it would be a pretty minor infraction.
Update: Oh darn. This has ruined our Friday. But thanks, Ben, for digging up the audio tape!
* We’d object to replacing “bon bons” with “chocolates.” The terms are not interchangeable. A bonbon is a very specific, especially indulgent type of sweet: “a candy with a fondant center, often with fruit or nuts, covered in fondant or chocolate.”
The word “chocolate” doesn’t convey the same decadence as “bonbon.” We might go instead with “truffles” (as in chocolates, not gourmet fungi).
** Teuscher champagne truffles are endorsed by Oprah — so they’ve got to be good. Says La Oprah: “They make the little hairs on my head rise. It’s so sinful!”
Oral Argument Transcript in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB [Supreme Court official website (PDF)]
HOFFMAN PLASTIC COMPOUNDS, INC. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD [Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School]
Earlier: A Tempest Over Tequila
How Many Drunk Mexicans Live In Dahlia’s Head?