RBG Award organizers cancel gala after backlash from Supreme Court justice’s family

(The Hill) - The organizers behind an award named Ruth Bader Ginsburg are canceling a ceremony honoring Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch after facing backlash from the late Supreme Court justice’s family and friends. 

Julie Opperman, the chairman of the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation, released a statement through a spokesperson on Monday explaining the decision to recognize Musk, founder of X, and conservative media mogul Murdoch among this year’s winners of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Leadership Award, known as the RBG Award.

In this Oct. 3, 2019 file photo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gestures to students before she speaks at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass, on Oct. 3, 2019. Ginsburg is being remembered during ceremonies at the Supreme Court on Friday, March 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

“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,” Opperman said. 

“Instead, we focused on leaders, who, in their own way, have made significant contributions to society,” the foundation’s chairman said. 

In a statement last week, Ginsburg’s family slammed the Opperman Foundation’s picks for the annual award, calling them “an affront to the memory of our mother and grandmother.”

Without specifying any winner in particular, the statement contended that the Foundation had “strayed far from the original mission of the award and from what Justice Ginsburg stood for.”

The award was first established in 2020 as a recognition solely for women, named after the liberal leader of the Supreme Court. Ginsburg died in 2020 at 87.

The award, which was also poised to be given to Martha Stewart, actor Sylvester Stallone and financier Michael Milken, was set to be handed out next month at a ceremony at the Library of Congress. The Opperman Foundation said Monday that while organizers “believe each of the honorees is worthy of our respect for their leadership and their notable contributions,” the gala “will be canceled.”

“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,” Opperman said.

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

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