“It is False”: Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch Disclaim NPR Mask Story

Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor issued a rare joint public statement Wednesday to disclaim the bombshell NPR report by Legal Affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg on the unpopularity of Gorsuch among his colleagues and his alleged refusal to wear a mask despite a threat to the health of Sotomayor. The justices stated that Totenberg’s account on the mask controversy was false. It is unclear what sources Totenberg relied upon for the report, which went viral on liberal media sites. (For full disclosure, I testified before the Senate in support of Gorsuch’s confirmation).

Totenberg has been previously accused of bias by Republicans and conservatives for her takes on the Supreme Court. In one incident, NPR itself expressed regret that Totenberg did not reveal a close personal relationship with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg despite years of coverage. We previously discussed another controversial story where she attacked Gorsuch while extolling the brilliance of Justice Elena Kagan.

In this latest segment, Totenberg again heralded Kagan as “one of the court’s best questioners” and compared her to Gorsuch who she presented as unpopular, unliked, and unpredictable. Despite her long journalistic career, the segment reads like an unvarnished hit piece portraying Gorsuch (who has previously received glowing reviews from appellate colleagues on both ends of the political spectrum) of being “a prickly justice, not exactly beloved even by his conservative soulmates on the court.”

One of the most reported elements is the claim by Totenberg that Sotomayor (who suffers from diabetes and is considered high risk for Covid) was cited by the Chief Justice as the basis for everyone wearing masks to protect her health. Totenberg suggests that Gorsuch refused. She claimed that, since Gorsuch is seated next to Sotomayor, “his continued refusal … meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone.”

Chief Justice John Roberts also issued a statement that it was false, as claimed, that he asked any of colleagues to wear masks on the bench.

The joint statement of the two justices insists that Totenberg’s account is entirely false:

“Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends.”

The NPR story struck many of us as diametrically at odds with everything we have heard about Gorsuch on the Court. However, it was another “fact clearly too good to check.” Sites exploded on the left about this conservative justice literally threatening the life of a liberal colleague. Rolling Stone ran with the story “Neil Gorsuch Stands Up for His Right to Endanger Sonia Sotomayor’s Health,” and added “the liberal Supreme Court justice is diabetic and didn’t want to sit next to justices who weren’t wearing masks. Her conservative colleague didn’t care.”

Former senator Claire McCaskill tweeted:

So glad I voted no on this jerk. What kind of guy does this? I could tell in my meeting with him that he thought he was better than everyone else, more important, smarter. Ugh. #Gorsuch

The Daily Kos declared

“it is hard to imagine a bigger shit. But we should not be surprised…Most Americans will find his selfishness incredible, but it is typical of his kind. One trait common to every conservative is a sociopathic lack of empathy.”

Elie Mystal, who has written for Above the Law and the Nation, tweeted

Confirmation of what we all already knew. Whatever you think about masks, Gorsuch, who sits next to Sotomayor at work, just decided to be a dick to a colleague.

At Above the Law, even the joint statement made little difference. Indeed, Kathryn Rubino (who is the subject of another dubious column today) discarded the statement of even Sotomayor herself in a column titled “Neil Gorsuch’s Call For Civility Was Always Just For Show.”  Rubino still maintains that the false story still proves her point: “This information probably does not surprise Supreme Court watchers — like even a little bit — but, Neil Gorsuch is a real jerk of a coworker.”

Previously, after Gorsuch was misquoted by reporters (who largely apologized or corrected their articles), ATL editor Joe Patrice dismissed the official transcript (and the recording) to accuse Gorsuch of tampering with the record in a column titled “Neil Gorsuch Cited Fake Flu Stats And Then Scrubbed The Transcript Like A Coward.”

Ruth Marcus who also features prominently in the earlier column controversy discussed today ran with the mask claim.  That column stated that a conservative law clerk on the Eleventh Circuit had sent out a racist text — a story again picked up by a wide array of media sites. The Second Circuit just released a report refuting the underlying allegation in ATL, the Washington Post, and other outlets.

It really does not matter if it is false or not. The narrative remains. The story is another manifestation of our age of rage. It is not enough that you disagree with Gorsuch. You have to portray him as a sadistic, borderline homicidal fanatic. In the end, the media just moves on with the next collective primal scream session masked as journalism.

NPR has not explained why Totenberg did not confirm with either justice. It did issue a statement that “stands by” Totenberg that is enough to make a Philadelphia lawyer blush:

“Totenberg never reported that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask, nor did she report that anyone admonished him. She did report that Chief Justice Roberts; ‘in some form asked the other justices to mask up’ – and Gorsuch was the only one who did not.”

Roberts has denied making such a request but “in some form” could mean anything. Under NPR logic, he could have asked through telepathic means or used allegorical accounts to encourage colleagues to mask up.  Moreover, the tweet sent out the NPR left little doubt of the import of the reporting that Gorsuch had refused such requests despite Sotomayor’s health concerns. Totenberg tweeted the following description of her story: “Gorsuch refuses to mask up to protect Sotomayor.”

Such sensational accounts are not supposed to be journalism “in some form.” Just journalism. The three mentioned justices (Roberts, Sotomayor, and Gorsuch) are denying the underlying claims. But NPR “stands with” the story.

NPR reporter David Gura went even further and (like ATL’s Patrice) suggested that the justices were simply lying. Gura tweeted “I [sic] surprised at how many Supreme Court correspondents I admire are passing along a statement from two justices that is at best false without any context whatsoever.”

The NPR story not only continues the unrelenting attacks on Gorsuch and his conservative colleagues in the media, but also continues to portray the Court as bitterly divided. The Court itself has repeatedly refuted such claims with a series of unanimous and near unanimous decisions. Individual justices like Stephen Breyer chaffed at the claim that this is a “conservative” court. Yet, if you are going to pack the Court, you need to convince the public that it is hopelessly divided and dysfunctional. For that reason, even the popularity of the Chief Justice in a recent poll was viewed as “dire” for democracy in the media.

The fact is that justices on either end of the ideological spectrum have maintained close friendship. The relationship between Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia was such an example.

We have been discussing the rise of advocacy journalism and the rejection of objectivity in journalism schools. This movement includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that the journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.”

The controversy at NPR occurs after the publicly funded company changed its policy to allow its reporters to take active parts in protests for social justice — erasing a long-standing bright-line rule in journalism. The impact of such advocacy journalism is evident in every poll where the faith in the media has plummeted. Indeed, the “Let’s Go Brandon” movement is as much a criticism of the media as it is President Biden. The United States ranked dead last in media trust among 49 countries with just 29% saying that they trusted the media.

We will not be able to restore the trust in the media until these companies abandon reporting “in some form” and return to simple journalism.

101 thoughts on ““It is False”: Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch Disclaim NPR Mask Story”

  1. “The controversy at NPR . . .”

    What do you expect from a “news” organization that regards physical fitness and dieting as “cultural oppression.”

    Facts and objectivity be damned. Our wishes are reality.

  2. Of course the justices will refute the story, the SCOTUS is always private with each other. And Turley knows this to be fact. He just wanted chum in the water for the cult.

    1. The logic above is an escape from reality. Unless the facts agree with one who knows almost nothing about the subject matter, someone must have altered the facts. That is always a possibility, but when one uses such banal reasoning devoid of knowledge, it is like the broken clock that is right twice per day.


        1. We know that in your own fashion you can explain it to yourself. Your capacity for critical thinking is low, so don’t expect anyone else to believe you understand the subject matter. I will quote another that you should respond to instead of me, “If there is a memo, recorded conference call, or some other written or video evidence that proves 3 justices lied (and it’s now 3 of them), then submit it. Otherwise, it’s you who has the credibility problem.”

    2. FishWings:

      Are you accusing Supreme Court Justices of lying? Because if so, you’d better have some proof other than their refutation undermines a story that benefitted your side politically.

      You seem unaware that you are basically making this up. If there is a memo, recorded conference call, or some other written or video evidence that proves 3 justices lied (and it’s now 3 of them), then submit it. Otherwise, it’s you who has the credibility problem.

  3. The country owes a debt of gratitude to President Trump for putting a justice the caliber of Gorsuch on the court.

    Obama should be remembered for elevating a justice of low caliber intellect named Sotomayor to the court.

    The country should recognize both NPR and Totenberg as state media communists and propagandists.

  4. These people in the media are NOT “doing” journalism. They are pushing forward a leftist agenda every minute of every day. They knowingly lie. They believe it is their civic duty. They face NO fact-checking, and NO repurcussions. They simply do their intentional damage and ‘move on.’

    Nina Totenberg and NPR stands by her reporting.

    Her likely sources? Sotomayor and her staff.

    We have no media in this country. We have STATE media and propagandists who lie on behalf of The Party. (Always in service of Democrats, of course)

    1. That being said, thank God for Fox News. And honest arbiters like Jonathan Turley.

  5. And this perspective from PBS “reporter” and Washington Week’s moderator (not biased or slanted sycophantic “reporting” at all, eh?) —>

    “Pres Biden, in the longest news conference in presidential history, made news, pushed back on critics, called out lies, took responsibility for mistakes he believes he made, expressed surprise at GOP, talked foreign policy and didn’t lash out on reporters.

    Quite the change.” ~Yamiche Alcindor

    DEFUND NPR and PBS — these people are activists NOT REPORTERS, NOT JOURNALISTS.

    Journalism is DEAD in this country. DEAD. DONE. Where’s the fork?

    1. The distinction is Yamiche is a journalist, reporter NOT an opinion writer or host. Yet she ACTS like one in ALL of her allegedly unbiased ‘reporting.’

    2. “The only person in America who thought Biden’s trainwreck performance was a success was the shameless and untalented DNC lackey Yamiche Alcindor — whose constant cheerleading has placed her so far up the ass of the Biden regime that she could legitimately be medically removed as a polyp.”

      ~Emerald Robinson

      1. James Carville….who must have gotten well into a jar of Loud Mouth…thought Biden hit. it out of the Park!

        Tells me drinking to excess early in the morning can sure confuse your thinking…..speaking of Carville of course

    3. In response to Yamiche Alcindor’s tweet:

      “Not even Jen Psaki would be willing to write something so gushing and propagandistic.

      As I said when she was hired by NBC, the more out in the open they are about their absolute loyalty to the Democratic Party, the better: the more people will see what their real function is.”

      ~Glenn Greenwald (actual journalist)

    4. “. . . the longest news conference in presidential history . . .”

      That was like watching a two-hour epileptic seizure.

  6. NPR / Nina Totenberg have accomplished the impossible and have found something Gorsuch and Sotomayor agree on…

  7. I maintain that Mr. Turley’s articles are very often a cure for insomnia. As far as his present prissy article against the use of mass by SCOTUS justices, all I can add to Trurley’s meanderings is that he should finally learn that the word “whom” is supposed to follow prepositions, not “who.” And finally, about that eternally wounded loo on Turley’s face, less alcohol, less sugar and more fresh veggies and less tendentious kowtowing to rightwing seditionists might help to put a smile back on his frazzled image.

    1. Now you mind your manners and observe your etiquette, young lady.

      Remember, hysteria and incoherence very well may put you in a bad light in the perception of your suitor, should he ever consider calling.

  8. “Sotomayor Attends Supreme Court Arguments Remotely To Protect Herself From Exposure To Constitution”

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—Citing the need for extra precaution and safety, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor announced her decision to hear the high court’s oral arguments from a remote location in order to protect herself from exposure to the U.S. Constitution.

    “I read online that exposure to the Constitution causes over 100,000 Americans to become white supremacists every day,” said Justice Sotomayor while wearing a face shield and three masks over a Zoom call. “These scientific facts have informed my decision to stay as far away as I can from the dangerous document.”

    Critics have called out the Supreme Court Justice for being a staggering doofus. Her associate, Justice Clarence Thomas, proved her suspicions ill-informed by demonstrating his daily routine of pulling out the original document, reading it aloud, and pressing it close to his face so he could inhale the aged parchment’s magical liberty-promoting fragrance.”

    Babylon Bee

    NPR’s Nina Rutro-berg


  9. Professor Turley Was Correct!

    Supreme Court Slaps-Down Trump’s Executive Privilege Claims

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused a request from former President Donald J. Trump to block the release of White House records concerning the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Only Justice Clarence Thomas noted a dissent.

    A special House committee investigating the attack sought the records from the National Archives, which gave both President Biden and Mr. Trump the opportunity to object.

    Mr. Trump invoked executive privilege, a doctrine meant to protect the confidentiality of presidential communications, over some of the documents.

    “The disagreement between an incumbent president and his predecessor from a rival political party,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers told the court, “is both novel and highlights the importance of executive privilege and the ability of presidents and their advisers to reliably make and receive full and frank advice, without concern that communications will be publicly released to meet a political objective.”

    Lawyers for the House committee responded that the Supreme Court should not thwart its inquiry. “The select committee’s work,” they wrote, “is of the highest importance and urgency: investigating one of the darkest episodes in our nation’s history, a deadly assault on the United States Capitol and Congress, and an unprecedented disruption of the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.”

    Mr. Trump had sued to block release of the documents, saying that the committee was investigating possible criminal conduct, a line of inquiry that he said was improper, and that the panel had no valid legislative reason to seek the requested information.

    Edited from: “Rebuking Donald Trump, Supreme Court Won’t Block Release Of January 6 Files”

    Today’s New York Times

    Months ago Professor Turley assured us this ruling would come to pass. Take a bow, Professor.

    1. What value will the Supreme Court nullification of executive privilege be to Biden, Obama, Hillary Clinton, doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, John “Dudley-Will-He-Do-Right” Durham, the Trump ’24 Campaign et al.

  10. There is no such thing as “advocacy journalism.” The proper term for the industry of the story writers at NPR and other like-minded media outlets is presstitution and the industry’s practitioners are called presstitutes. Please refrain from ever using the terms journalism or journalist when discussing NPR and their ilk. You insult the very few remaining journalists that work strictly outside the mainstream media.

    1. “The proper term for the industry of the story writers at NPR and other like-minded media outlets is presstitution and the industry’s practitioners are called presstitutes.”

      The proper term is: communists.

      1. No, not necessarily. A presstitute refers to a member of the press or media who is not an independent reporter or commentator, and who is really beholden to some individual or group of individuals to push a particular agenda. The agenda doesn’t necessarily have to be communist or leftist, even though those are most prevalent today. But a presstitute could also be promoting a neo-nazi agenda, for example.

      1. No, Carlson is actually one of few journalists working in mainstream media today. For example, even though Carlson and Sen. Ted Cruz have political viewpoints that may be similar in many respects, when Cruz falsely characterized the January 6 protestors as “terrorists,” Carlson called him out on it and questioned him in depth about it. In stark contrast, when Anthony Fauci made false statements and was interviewed by Jake Tapper, Tapper not only didn’t call out Fauci for his lies, but genuflected before him.

  11. Minutes from a Staff Meeting at NPR. “Let’s just take their money. They’ll never realize it’s just a shell game.” The con man always thinks that if they’re stupid enough to fall for the con they deserve to lose their hard earned cash. In one aspect they are right. If you continue to be fooled time after time you do deserve to lose your money. You have simply become a compulsive gambler. Your just the guy their lookin for.

  12. Long ago and far away a profit named Rush Limbuagh declared that NPR was a propaganda machine of the left. Rush very often let us know that NPR was populated with a bunch of liars growling in their lair. Now the liars say that Sotomayor too is a liar. They will increase their fortunes even if it requires eating their own babies. Keep this in mind when you log onto NPR and when you send them your money.

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