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Justice Antonin Scalia

In a Q&A session witnessed by an audience of A-list celebrities, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took Al Franken to task when the comedian and radio host challenged his ethics.

Scalia appeared at the Time Warner Center in New York City Monday night in a one-on-one session that is part of a series called Conversations on the Circle with outgoing Time Inc. editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine.

When Pearlstine opened the floor to questions, Franken stood up in the back row and began talking about “judicial demeanor,” the New York Post’s Page Six column reported, despite Pearlstine’s request that the event be off-the-record.

Page Six said Franken, who hosts a program on the liberal Air America network, “found out the hard way not to mess with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who chided Franken as if he were a delinquent schoolboy … .”

Franken asked “hypothetically” whether a judge should recuse himself if he had gone duck-hunting or flown in a private jet with a party in a case before his court, the Post reported.

The reference was to Scalia’s flying and hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney in January 2003, three weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a White House appeal in a case involving private meetings of Cheney’s energy task force.

Scalia lectured Franken, “Demeanor is the wrong word. You mean ethics.”

The justice explained a judge does not have to recuse himself from a case if his friend, in an official capacity, was a nominal party in the dispute, according to Opinion Journal Editor James Taranto, who witnessed the exchange.

Evaluating Franken’s performance, Time Warner chairman Dick Parsons later told the Post: “Al was not quite ready for prime time,” an allusion to the comedian’s stint with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

The Post said the confrontation with Scalia didn’t seem to weaken Franken’s interest in running for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, noting the radio host discussed his possible candidacy afterward at a cocktail reception.

“I think I got under his skin a little,” Franken told the Post.

The audience included Michael Eisner, Jack Valenti, Mike Wallace, Tina Brown, Harry Evans and Stanley Pottinger.

“I don’t think I was any meaner than I had to be,” Scalia told New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove at the cocktail party. “My kids have been working on me to get out and do more public appearances. … They think it makes it harder to demonize you – and I agree.”

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