Despite loads of media coverage, Neil Gorsuch never started a 'Fascism Forever' club in high school

Consider this your left-wing freakout of the day. It seems to have started with a story in the Daily Mail after someone there got hold of Gorsuch’s high school yearbook. The Mail took what was a joking bit of self-reference written by Gorsuch and turned it into a straight story:

Gorsuch founded the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ during his freshman year at Georgetown Preparatory, a now-$30,000-a-year private Jesuit school that is one of the most selective in the United States.

He served as president until he graduated in 1985, according to his senior yearbook.

Dozens of news sites ran with the scoop including the New York Post, U.S. News and World Report, and the International Business Times. It also got picked up by left-wing outlets like Perez Hilton and The Root, which may be may favorite version of the story:

So it turns out that back when Judge Neil Gorsuch—you know, President Pee-Pee’s nominee for the Supreme Court—was just a high school student, he founded the Fascism Forever Club.

First off, what a dork. Second, really?!

Well, maybe not. Steve Ochs, who was a history teacher at Georgetown prep when Gorsuch was there, tells America Magazine it never happened:

It was “a total joke,” said Steve Ochs, a history teacher at Georgetown Prep who was the student government advisor during Mr. Gorsuch’s junior and senior years at the Bethesda, Md., school.

“There was no club at a Jesuit school about young fascists,” he told America. “The students would create fictitious clubs; they would have fictitious activities. They were all inside jokes on their senior pages.”

Gorsuch was known to spar with students and even some of his teachers at Georgetown. According to America Magazine, he was occasionally teased by people and called a “conservative fascist” for his views. The Fascism Forever club mentioned in his yearbook was apparently just a joking reference to his status as the outspoken conservative on campus.

Addendum (Ed): It’s worth noting the source of this debunking. America Magazine is a well-known Jesuit publication with reporters all over the world, whose point of view tends toward the liberal side of the spectrum — so this isn’t some whitewash by a conservative opinion outlet. Georgetown Prep is also a Jesuit school, which plays a role in how the joke came about in the first place. Let’s take another look at the excellent reporting by Michael O’Louhglin:

Mr. Gorsuch, who was nominated on Jan. 31 to the Supreme Court by President Donald J. Trump, participated in the informal debates [in student government meetings], where he was routinely teased, accused of being “a conservative fascist.” No shrinking violet, he would shoot back, taking on the liberal ethos of the school and even arguing with religion teachers about the liberal theological trends in vogue at the time.

He wrote that he founded and led the “Fascism Forever Club,” though those with knowledge of the school back in the 1980s say there was no such club. The mention of it in the yearbook was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to poke fun at liberal peers who teased him about his fierce conservatism.

In other words, Gorsuch had no problem sticking to his principles even while outnumbered by his political opponents, but there was enough mutual respect and friendship that Gorsuch was willing to poke fun at the environment in a self-deprecating and affectionate manner. That speaks well of Georgetown Prep, and it speaks well of America Magazine for understanding the context of this anecdote before reporting on it. Kudos.

America Magazine is home to some fine reporting from the Vatican, along with generally liberal points of view on its opinion pages, including by author Fr. James Martin. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the quality of the work is usually high.