WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used an Italian hand gesture when questioned by a reporter after attending church this past weekend.
The Boston Herald reported Monday that the justice made "an obscene gesture under his chin" — which prompted some online reports that Scalia had used his middle finger.
"It was a hand off the chin gesture that was meant to be dismissive," Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.
Scalia, 70, is Italian and known for wisecracks in and out of court.
The sign he used in Boston is frequently used by Italians to express displeasure with someone — from mild to deep irritation. It is done by cupping the hand under the chin and flicking the fingers like a backward wave.
Scalia was leaving Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross when the reporter asked the justice if he had to deal with much flak related to his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs, according to the newspaper.
"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia said before making the gesture, according to the paper's account. "That's Sicilian."
The paper said that Scalia also said: "This is my spiritual life. I shall lead it the way I like."