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RBG award ceremony canceled amid controversy over recipients

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gestures to students before she speaks at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass, on Oct. 3, 2019.
Jessica Hill
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gestures to students before she speaks at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass, on Oct. 3, 2019.

A nonprofit has canceled the ceremony for an award named after Ruth Bader Ginsburg, after its choice of recipients outraged the late liberal justice's family.

The Dwight D. Opperman Foundation has presented the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Leadership Award to accomplished women including Barbra Streisand and Queen Elizabeth II since its inception in 2019.

But this year, the Opperman Foundation selected four men, including conservative media titan Rupert Murdoch and billionaire Elon Musk, and Martha Stewart.

Ginsburg's family blasted the selection last week, saying the decision is an "affront" to the memory of the late justice and her values.

"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.

By Monday, foundation Chair Julie Opperman issued a release saying it was canceling the April ceremony.

"This year we selected leaders in different fields. We honored men for the first time," Opperman said in a statement. "We thought RBG's teachings regarding EQUALITY should be practiced. We did not consider politics."

Opperman also said the foundation was reevaluating its mission and would make a decision on whether to continue.

The organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stewart, Musk, Murdoch, Michael Milken and Sylvester Stallone were the five "iconic" and "exceptional" recipients of the 2024 RBG Leadership Award, the foundation had said in its initial news release on Wednesday.

Milken, an investment banker famous for creating the junk bond market, was arrested in the late '80s for securities fraud. After he was released from prison, he built a reputation on his philanthropy. President Trump pardoned Milken in 2020.

Stewart served time in a federal women's prison from October 2004 through March 2005 for her part in a stock scandal.

Musk, the billionaire owner of SpaceX, has been accused of antisemitism and, since taking over Twitter — now known as X — reportedlyallowed pro-Nazi content to proliferate on the platform, prompting companies to pull ad revenue.

Actor Stallone of Rocky fame has faced multiple allegations of sexual assault, all of which he denies and for which he's never been charged.

Stallone escorted Justice Ginsburg to the stage — as the franchise's theme song played — during the award's inaugural ceremony in 2020, as Opperman noted at the time.

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Alina Hartounian
Alina Hartounian is a supervising editor for NPR's NewsHub, an audience focused team of reporters and editors who largely write for While guiding coverage, she has also taken time to write about bicolored lobsters and microchip graffiti.