U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday the scene at President Obama’s first State of the Union address was “very troubling.” He made the comments at the University of Alabama while responding to a student’s question, as first reported by the Associated Press.
Justice Roberts said the annual address to Congress “degenerated into a political pep rally.”
During this year’s State of the Union in January, President Obama, in a break from tradition, scolded the court for a decision on campaign finance.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded to the chief justice's comments, "What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections - drowning out the voices of average Americans. The President has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response."
Roberts noted that he doesn’t take issue with criticism of the court, "So I have no problems with that," he said. "On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court -- according the requirements of protocol -- has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling."
Roberts also added, “I'm not sure why we're there.”
Six of the nine justices were present for the address, including Justice Samuel Alito who shook his head and appeared to mouth the words “not true” when the president brought up the campaign finance decision.
The website Breitbart.tv obtained audio of a portion of the chief justice's comments.
Fox News' Major Garrett and the Associated Press also contributed to this report.