“She Can Write Any #$@!% Thing She Wants”: Totenberg Slams NPR’s Own Ombudsman Over Debunked Gorsuch Story

Nina Totenberg slammed Kelly McBride, the ombudsman for National Public Radio (NPR), for concluding that she should rewrite her story accusing Neil Gorsuch of refusing to wear a mask to protect his colleague, Sonia Sotomayor. McBride did not suggest a correction but merely a “clarification.” Totenberg responded to The Daily Beast and declared that McBride “can write any goddamn thing she wants, whether or not I think it’s true.” Now, days after rare public denials by all three referenced justices, many in the media who denounced Gorsuch have followed suit. They also refuse to clarify or address their own attacks on the justice in light of the denials from the Court. Notably, Gorsuch was the subject of another false story connected to the same oral argument. Many also did not correct that reporting. (For full disclosure, I testified before the Senate in support of Gorsuch’s confirmation).

The philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once said that “there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.” That is certainly the case with the Supreme Court this month. After striking down the Biden vaccine mandate for workplaces, the Court found itself embroiled in the raging question over masks in the workplace after the NPR story.

Nevertheless, Totenberg pounced at the chance to (again) pummel Gorsuch:

“Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up. They all did. Except Gorsuch, who, as it happens, sits next to Sotomayor on the bench. His continued refusal since then has also meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone.” 

It did not matter that Totenberg had previously attacked Gorsuch. The media showed the same hair-triggered tendency with previously debunked stories.

Gorsuch did appear in the last argument without a mask. Ironically, if he had simply worn the commonly used cloth mask, there would have been no outcry even though the masks do not appear to block these variants and even CNN’s experts are calling the cloth masks “little more than facial decorations.”

It is also not clear that Sotomayor even knew whether anyone or everyone would wear masks at the argument. She had previously stated an intention to participate remotely. Given the lack of protection from most masks (including reused or contaminated N95 masks), Sotomayor likely felt the risk was not worth taking. Yet, Totenberg states as a fact that Gorsuch’s “continued refusal since then has … meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone.”

None of this mattered as the media ran with the story of Gorsuch forcing Sotomayor to stay virtual and refusing to yield to Roberts’ alleged encouragement to wear a mask.

MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace declared Gorsuch guilty of “anti-mask insanity.” Her colleague Joy Reid accused Gorsuch of virtually standing Sotomayor up in front of a COVID firing squad for his personal enjoyment. Reid declared that Gorsuch was “risking the life of your colleague” and was a “rotten co-worker,” “dangerous to be near in a pandemic,” and “tonight’s absolute worst.”  Reid even declared on the air that  Gorsuch “loves COVID — which makes him the perfect Republican”.

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.

Then came the denial of all three justices.

Chief Justice John Roberts also issued a statement that it was false, as claimed, that he asked any of his colleagues to wear masks on the bench. Indeed, previously the justices did not wear masks during arguments. Moreover, Gorsuch is routinely shown wearing a mask around the courthouse.

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.”


Notably, these are three jurists who interpret the Constitution, statutes, treaties, and agreements for a living. All three read the Totenberg report and felt compelled to issue rare public statements to refute the story.

NPR’s ombudsman found the story in need of clarification and their interpretation of the story was shared by everyone who heard the report (though Fox News’ Shannon Bream quickly and correctly challenged the report with her own sources denying the story). They understood NPR as saying that Gorsuch refused to wear a mask after Roberts asked all of his colleagues to do so to protect Sotomayor. That interpretation was readily apparent by the ragefest on cable news and the Internet as media figures lined up to denounce Gorsuch as a type of viral homicidal maniac.

In response to the justices, Totenberg insisted that she never said that Gorsuch was directly asked by Roberts to wear a mask and did not say that he rebuffed a request from Sotomayor. However, Totenberg pushed the false narrative of the story as it went viral. Totenberg tweeted the following description of her story: “Gorsuch refuses to mask up to protect Sotomayor.”

Strangely, Totenberg seemed to argue that her much promoted piece was really not much news at all. Roberts may not have asked anyone to wear masks and Sotomayor’s remote participation may have had nothing to do with Gorsuch. Indeed, even if Gorsuch wore the common cloth mask, it would not, according to various studies, afford her real protection against the variant. The problem is how virtually everyone understood her story as evidenced by the coverage.

NPR stood by the story even though its own ombudsman suggested that it should be clarified. Totenberg immediately ran with the NPR support and backhanded the ombudsman:


NPR reporter David Gura went even further and suggested that the justices might simply be lying and we should not take their account over that of Nina Totenberg. 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.”

Totenberg went on to say that, as a journalist, she did not even read the views of NPR’s own ombudsman review: “I haven’t even looked at it, and I don’t care to look at it because I report to the news division, she does not report to the news division.”

The NPR story is the latest example of rage politics and how the underlying truth is immaterial to the narrative.

I wrote earlier that it really does not matter that the story was false or misleading. As expected, the media simply moved on without admitting errors. It is a pattern that we have seen repeatedly.  We have discussed the false reporting in controversies ranging from the Lafayette Park protests to the Nicholas Sandmann controversy to the Russian collusion scandal to cases like the Rittenhouse trial.

We are left with a Zen-like “tree-falling-in-the-forest” paradox: it is not fake news if the news will not admit to faking it. That fact is that people like an ombudsman can “write any goddamn thing” they want but, if it is not reported, it matters little.  Gorsuch “loves Covid” and wants to kill a liberal colleague . . . whether he does or not.

134 thoughts on ““She Can Write Any #$@!% Thing She Wants”: Totenberg Slams NPR’s Own Ombudsman Over Debunked Gorsuch Story”

  1. Let me say sorry to all the desperate Totenbergites posting here to prop up their debunked hero, but I believe three Supreme Court justices before I believe a reporter who is clearly biased against conservatives. No, I don’t think the justices are lying, I think Nina Totenberg either (1) got the story wrong because of sloppiness or “too good to check” or (2) she’s lying herself and knows people who hate conservatives (ie most NPR staffers) will have her back. Unfortunately for Nina, the Ombudsman won’t play along.

    I don’t believe the story, I think Totenberg is full of crap and she’s not the only one at NPR, their White House correspondent is a real gem too. Rarely does one see so much fawning coverage of a leader outside a banana republic.

    NPR needs to clean up its act and stopped pandering to the radical left, the only audience they seem to care about..

    1. NPR needs to be terminated with extreme prejudice as there is no power provided to Congress by the Constitution to tax for or fund that communist mouthpiece.

  2. The lie itself is the smallest part, It’s all the justifications, further lies, hate, and such that fills the subsequent book. The hysterics defending this NPR story strongly suggest that the original story” lacked candor” in Washington DC English. When I lied as a child, my mother could read it all over my face and there was no further need to lie so I confessed. Confession is good for the soul and can be usually learned at a young age. Some never learn that lesson

    1. Ms. Totenberg gives us some bile in her reaction to her co-equal Ombudsman branch at NPR. What if this is no more than her nose out of joint at Gorsuch and using her pulpit to see if she can mask him, subordinating his choice to her will? If so, that makes the firestorm in the liberal media a mere fractal of her animus.

  3. The liberal media is beyond “reporting the news,” beyond even “advocacy journalism.” It has given itself permission to simply fabricate stories out of thin air. The really frightening thing is the number of liberals who believe the lying reporter rather than the justices themselves. The comments on Totenberg’s Twitter feed show the knee-jerk response to her story — complete and unquestioning belief. Maybe McWhorter is right: wokism is a religion (I’d say more of a cult). Liberals have transferred their religious awe and gullibility to the media. They are truly delusional and dangerous.

  4. On the night the ’16 election was called for Trump –Shartmeister L’Orange– I puked just from the knowledge the world was barreling toward environmental catastrophe and one of the single worst people in the U.S. to Shepard the country forward through the crisis was just put in charge…


    See, I can write anything I want, Jon. And so can you. You’re free to deflect from the day’s most pressing legal issues because you’re assigned that task from the people you work for. I’m free to say it’s time for you to have a Dean Wormer moment (from ANIMAL HOUSE). Fat, drunk and stupid is indeed no way to go through life, Jon. Obviously you were gifted, and worked for, attaining a solid legal mind at one time. But your efforts of late have you ranking somewhere between Sidney Powell and Michael Cohen on the trump lawyer continuum. You’re not as crazy as Powell, and yet you’ve not approached attempting to redeem yourself like Cohen has.


    Why is this important??? Well, it’s because you work for a clear and present danger to the U.S. You work for a media empire that is something the American Nazi party could only wish to have in the run up to WW II…Fox news….

    And why is that important??? Hmmm, funny you should ask. It’s because we’re here folks. We’re on the verge of the next world war…, Russia’s impending invasion of Ukraine is that serious. And you work for an empire that has sought to further the career and aspirations of Vlad Putin’s main sleeper agent in his misinformation war against the U.S. that is designed to weaken NATO. Hell in another Trump term he would’v destroyed NATO as you and a bunch of other ambulance chasers working for the R’s finger popped their butts at each step of the journey.


    So apologies for not giving AF about whether Gorsuch is a dick or not. Odds are greatly in favor of that being the case. That’s clear by your rush to defend him for the home team.

    I’m just a lot more concerned about the prospects of complete humanitarian catastrophe in Europe right now. Syria was awful. This promises to be worse.

    1. LOL, imagine trying to defend (they never can defend, so they deflect) npr caught in another outright lie.

      Put down the mimosas, you’re making it even worse for those lying losers, as usual.

    2. Anonymous: And you’re too full of yourself to even grasp the import of a media that lies. WMDs anyone? And if you’re truly concerned about Syria, you might recall the lies of the US media about “chemical warfare” that “justified” US incursion into that country in the first place. Media lies are never trivial — they are critical to everything in society from the pandemic to false flags.

    3. So now according to Anonymous Professor Turley is fat, drunk and stupid. She could say so much more. As an example, why not doggie dodo. This is her most common form of sophisticated argument. I’ve always suspected that she is about twelve years old. Her schoolyard rant confirms my suspicions. Thank you Anonymous for your representation of the views of your leftist friends. Wait for it. Her response to my criticism will be “nanny nanny boo boo.” Obviously her word consists of 24 hours of reruns of Animal House. Earth to Anonymous. Earth to Anonymous!!

    4. You are concerned that because of supply chain problems you will run out of tin foil to wrap around your head.

  5. Haters are gonna hate….truth be damned!

    Used to be that it took three….THREE… independent sources to corroborate anonymous sourced information before a Journalist would use it.

    Not anymore….any anonymous source without any effort to corroborate the information is good enough for modern self acclaimed “journalists”.

    Even when the three Principles, The Chief Justice and two Associate Justices of the US Supreme Court, EACH refute the anonymous sourced information….NPR and Totenberg stand by the story.

    Does that suggest NPR, Totenberg, and other Leftists hold the Court’s Decisions in the same light?

    When the Leftists accuse Sotomayor, their Darling on the SCOTUS, a Liar…..as that American Red Neck Comedian says…..”Theres’s your Sign!”.

    Sadly, the Kook Aid Gulpers they target their Snake Oil to….are just too stupid and brainwashed to see it for what it is….propaganda of the most pitiful quality.

    That is why I skip right over any post that is provided by or based upon anything from “Anonymous”.

  6. “Totenberg” is a name derived from those who carried ice off the mountaintops down to villages so folks could drink cold beer. When her grand parents hit Ellis Island at migration day the official changed grandpa’s last name from itShayhead to Totenberg.

  7. I listened to The Hill yesterday. One of the host defended Nina Totenburg stating that her story must have been sourced to an aid at the court. So Nina says we should believe an aid at the court rather than Judge Sotomayor. Well she got her BS story and she’s sticking to it. If this was the first made up story that she concocted we could cut her some slack but her writings from her past lie heavily about her neck and shoulders. She just finds it so hard to find the truth these days.

  8. The left will tie themselves into such pretzels as some claiming that their favorite Justice, Sotomeyer, is now lying when denying Totenburg’s specious story. This is how thin skinned theleft has become due to NEVER having to answer a tough question and especially a tough follow-up.

  9. This kind of “argumentation” and the journalists who employ its use far too regularly are getting tedious.

  10. I used to listen to NPR and enjoy it; now I can’t tolerate its smug condescension and woke dogma. Maybe I changed, but I think it more likely that it changed. For a laugh, see if you can find Tucker Carlson’s segments on NPR in each of the past two weeks. I no longer see why any public funds should go to this organisation.

    1. I always thought NPR was smug, but to each their own. You are correct though – they have gone from smug to unlistenable. Anyone with even a modicum of exposure to other information can tell a great many of their stories are either pure propaganda or evidence of staggering ignorance. It’d be comedic if it weren’t so pernicious.

  11. This is typical of NPR’s holier than thou behavior. They never let the facts get in the way of their narrative. Why should America support this faux upper class elite snob outlet? NPR used to have some great stories and actual news. Now they are so polarized it’s absurd. Having said that, I do respect Mara Liasson for appearing frequently on Bret Baier’s FOX panel. She must be risking her life to do so. But she presents her arguments thoughtfully and adds depth to that show whenever she participates. And no, I do not get my news from FOX. I just happen to like Bret’s program – it would be useful for some MSNBC and CNN viewers to tune in. If they were receptive to other perspectives, it might enlighten them and show that FOX has an outstanding news team. As most journalists in DC will acknowledge (privately).

    1. Bret’s show is very good and it is a true NEWS program. I also agree that Mara’s appearances on the “panel” are the best among the liberal contributors. We have morons like Juan Williams and Leslie Marshall that mimic anything the Democrats are saying as if they are Jen Psaki, but Mara, and to a lesser degree, Harold Ford Jr, will at least be honest when confronted with obvious micues by Biden at al.

  12. What? Someone at NPR (or PBS) exaggerated a story that put conservatives in a bad light? Oh come now.

    Time to defund those people. Let them compete in the marketplace with CNN, MSNBC, and the legacy media. We don’t need another state media –

    And Sen. McCaskill – he likely is smarter than you, given the fact that you fell for this hit piece

  13. NPR I stopped listening to them years ago. They have gone FULL WOKE and MISINFORMATION. They are the WOKE SOCIAL JUSTICE LEFT WING RADICAL RADIO NETWORK.

  14. Lefties are developing their own “truth bubble” of alternative facts.

    That leads to the ultimate absurdity of 70% of Americans saying that the sun rises in the east and 30% alleging that it isn’t so (depending on what is fashionable).

    Don’t think that it won’t happen?

    Read some of our Lefty posters.

    Many of their statements are not grounded in reality (yes Natacha).

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