Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Tuesday that she is "very much alive," tamping down concerns that recent health issues could cause her to leave the bench.
"There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer [in 2009], who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months," she told National Public Radio. "That senator, whose name I've forgotten, is now himself dead and I am very much alive."
Ginsburg was referring to Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who served two terms as a Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky between 1999 and 2011. In February 2009, Bunning said in a speech that Ginsburg had "bad cancer. The kind that you don't get better from … Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live" with pancreatic cancer.
WASHINGTON – MARCH 02: U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Bunning later apologized for his comments in a statement which misspelled Ginsburg's name. About five months later, Bunning ended his bid for a third term and accused his GOP colleagues of doing, “everything in their power to dry up my fundraising.” Rand Paul went on to win the seat in 2010.
Bunning passed away in May 2017 at the age of 85 months after suffering a stroke.
The 86-year-old Ginsburg took a break from the court after undergoing surgery to remove cancerous nodules from her lungs in December 2018 but returned to the Court in February of this year. She also had colorectal cancer in 1999 and had a stent implanted in her heart to open a blocked artery in 2014.
In a speech a little more than a year after Bunning made the remarks Ginsburg said, “I am pleased to report that, contrary to Sen. Bunning’s prediction, I am alive and in good health.”
Ginsburg, considered the most liberal justice on the court, is closely watched by court observers for any potential signs that she may retire. Should President Trump pick a conservative replacement, it would mark a significant rightward swing for the already conservative-leaning court. However, Ginsburg reportedly hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020, indicating she has no plans to retire immediately.
When asked on Tuesday how she managed her work while she fought cancer she told NPR, "The work is really what saved me because I had to concentrate on reading the briefs, doing a draft of an opinion, and I knew it had to get done.”
“So I had to get past whatever my aches and pains were just to do the job."
Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 to replace retiring Justice Byron R. White. Ginsburg was Clinton’s first Supreme Court pick. and just the second woman to be confirmed to the high court following Sandra Day O'Connor.
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah, Barry Werner, Adam Shaw, Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.