updated 3/29/2006 11:00:56 AM ET 2006-03-29T16:00:56

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a scathing letter to the Boston Herald, accused the newspaper’s staff of watching “too many episodes of the Sopranos” for interpreting a hand gesture he made at a cathedral as obscene.

The Boston Herald reported Monday the justice made “an obscene gesture, flicking his hand under his chin” in response to a question about whether lawyers might question his impartiality in matters of church and state. The incident occurred after he attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

But Scalia wrote in a letter to the editor that the gesture was not obscene at all, but dismissive. Scalia said he explained the gesture’s meaning to the reporter, to no avail.

Scalia quoted from “The Italians” by Luigi Barzini: “The extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means ‘I couldn’t care less. It’s no business of mine. Count me out.”’

Scalia wrote that the reporter concluded it was offensive because he initially explained his gesture by saying, “That’s Sicilian.” He blamed the mistake on excessive exposure to the HBO crime family drama.

“From watching too many episodes of the ‘Sopranos,’ your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene — especially when made by an ‘Italian jurist.’ (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)” Scalia wrote.

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