This Year’s RBG Awards Went Terribly Wrong

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Speaks At Amherst College
Photo: Boston Globe via Getty Images

Shortly before her death, Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped establish the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award, honoring “women who exemplify human qualities of empathy and humility.” So it came as a surprise when last week, the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation — which organizes the awards — revealed that this year it would honor Rupert Murdoch, Elon Musk, Martha Stewart, Michael Milken, and Sylvester Stallone, sparking instant outrage from RBG’s family and supporters.

“This year, the Opperman Foundation has strayed far from the original mission of the award and from what Justice Ginsburg stood for,” Jane Ginsburg, daughter of the Supreme Court justice, said in a statement, per NPR. Murdoch built his media empire on conservative outlets like Fox News, and since purchasing X (formerly Twitter), Musk has been accused of allowing hate speech to spread freely on the platform. Milken, a former investment banker, was arrested in the late ’80s for securities fraud and is credited with creating the junk-bond market, though he has worked in philanthropy since his release and was pardoned by President Trump in 2020.

On CNN, RBG’s son, James S. Ginsburg, called the decision to honor a group of men and convicted felons in his mother’s name “desecration” and said his mother would be “appalled” if she saw the list. “The two that obviously stand out here are Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch,” James said. “When you think of trying to create a more just society, which of course was Mom’s ultimate goal, those are probably about the last names that would come to mind.”

Previous recipients of the award include Agnes Gund, Queen Elizabeth II, Diane von Furstenberg, and Barbra Streisand. Streisand joined Ginsburg’s family in calling out the foundation, writing, “I had the privilege of meeting Justice Ginsburg on several occasions, and I strongly doubt she would approve of these awardees” on Instagram and X.

In announcing this year’s winners last week, Julie Opperman, the chairperson for the foundation, said the prize was expanding to include “women and men who have changed the world by doing what they do best” in an effort “to embrace the fullness of Justice Ginsburg’s legacy.” Following the criticism, Opperman announced Monday that this year’s awards ceremony, which was scheduled for April, is canceled. “We thought RBG’s teachings regarding EQUALITY should be practiced. We did not consider politics,” Opperman said. In the future, the foundation will “reconsider its mission and make a judgment about how or whether to proceed,” she added.

This Year’s RBG Awards Went Terribly Wrong