“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. As expected, the media simply moved on without admitting errors. ” this IS the rush limbaugh definition of the “drive by media”!! it stirs up a hornets nest w fact free opinionating [we dont really have news anymore]…and then it moves on…w nary a vowel or consonent typed after its been exposed!

  2. In North Central Idaho, 397 deaths from COVID-19 among the unvaccinated. Just 45 among the vaccinated.

    1. So its a good thing for Democrats since Trump supporting conservatives are the ones who are unvaccinated, so you should be joyous Reps are dying at a quick rate. Happy?

      1. ruralcounsel, “evidence for ADE among COVID-19 vaccines has not emerged”.

  3. The only time I’ve ever seen NPR or public television rein in the Marxist baloney was when the GOP controlled both the Whitehouse and Congress. Budgets matter, even to communists.

  4. I am a little surprised that the justices responded to this story. Far worse is thrown at the justices and they say nothing. If they go further down this road, monitoring and responding to what people say about them could be a full time job in addition to their regular job.

      1. While collegiality among the justices probably explains what happened actually and the decision to respond (thanks for pointing it out), I find that justices don’t seem to be particularly respectful, civil, or collegial when the majority opinion is discussing the dissent or the dissenting opinion is discussing the majority.

        1. Collegiality among individuals is usual, but I wouldn’t extend it to ideas. They are paid to provide ideas and why they are right while others are wrong.

  5. Nina Tottenberg – all of NPR for that matter – is a political propagandist, as are all members of the so-called media, right as well as left. They are liars and manipulators whose sole goal is to attempt to manipulate the thinking of others. They use the First Amendment, which is actually a guarantee of freedom of religion, speech (including the printed word) and assembly is for INDIVIDUALS as a mantra to claim that the commercial media has a “mandate” to “report the truth”, with “the truth” being whatever they want to publish. They’re liars and the truth is not in them.

    1. Prior to 2016, we used to have the local NPR station on, all day, every day.
      Listen to them in the truck all the time.
      Then 2016 happened and they went all in CNN panel-O-pundits like, mental gymnastics to twist any story into some negative spin on Trump (disclaimer, registered Independent, voted 3rd party).
      It was nauseating.
      Now, everything is viewed through the race, gender, equality lens.
      It is nauseating.
      And tiresome.
      Now, I have nearly stopped listening.

      1. I used to listen AND contribute dollars to NPR. Now I rarely listen and only then to see if they’re still blatantly biased, or to listen to an NPR classical music station.

  6. OT: But recently discussed. The comparison between Pelosi and the Jan 6 committee to theMcCarthy hearings is very compelling.

    “What Congress is barred from doing, as two McCarthy-era Supreme Court cases ruled, is exactly what the 1/6 committee is now doing: conducting a separate, parallel criminal investigation in order to uncover political crimes committed by private citizens. Such powers are dangerous precisely because Congress’s investigative powers are not subject to the same safeguards as the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. And just as was true of the 1950s House Un-American Activities committee (HUAC) that prompted those Supreme Court rulings, the 1/6 committee is not confining its invasive investigative activities to executive branch officials or even citizens who engaged in violence or other illegality on January 6, but instead is investigating anyone and everyone who exercised their Constitutional rights to express views about and organize protests over their belief that the 2020 presidential election contained fraud. Indeed, the committee’s initial targets appear to be taken from the list of those who applied for protest permits in Washington: a perfectly legal, indeed constitutionally protected, act.” __Glenn Greenwald


    1. Thanks for posting this. I subscribe to Mr. Greenwald’s Substack, and this post has my blood alternately running cold and boiling.

      1. Thank you. Greenwald is on the left but doesn’t like concentrated power nor an abridgment of our civil liberties. Many on the right agree with him on these things, but most on the left do not. That tells us something important. Today’s Democrats, including many that respond here, are fascists and against individual freedoms, along with being against the Constitution and our nation.

        I believe much of this is due to ignorance.

        1. I believe much of this is due to ignorance.

          Willful ignorance. Often corrected repeatedly about the same errors of law and constitutional fact.

  7. At some point I will stop being surprised when JT dedicates whole posts to small errors in reporting that liberal (or neutral) media, but never comments at all about the lies the Fox spreads continuously.

    1. Your whataboutism only makes you weaker and the non-MSM knob polishers stronger.

      “Continuous” lies…lol.. Your MSM and your position on reality have become laughingstocks.

      Try to pry your head out of your ‘bubble’ and join reality, it is not too late.

    2. Sammy, Please educate us. Exactly what was the ‘small’ error in this reporting?

  8. If you want to find out what happens when politics and journalism go to hell entirely, read some old newspapers beginning the last few months of 1860 through the first few months of 1861.

  9. There was a time when NPR was good. Always left-wing and often far left, it was typically insightful and literate. Listening in the car was a good investment of one’s time.

    Not anymore. It’s garbage. And has been for over a decade.

    Why have the Republicans not advanced legislation to defund it?

    1. Once upon a time all media were competing for the whole audience. That is no longer true. No self-respecting right winger will watch NPR except to find things to be outraged about and no self-respecting left winger will watch FOX or OAN unless for the same reason. The media have specialized in their particular audiences and have become echo chambers and as the audiences become more polarised so the hosts spout more red meat vitriol meant for the target audience, they know their audiences come to get riled up and so they use more extreme language. The same thing has happened with the commenters on Res Ipso Loquitur. Once upon a time there was a balance but now commenters like MESPO whom I used to consider reasonable have moved to the right. It is a case of Overton windows shifting in opposite directions.

      JT alone has not changed.

  10. This rocks my mind:

    ” the Transportation Security Administration accepts arrest warrants as identification for illegal aliens who board airplanes in the U.S.:” PL

  11. There are masks and there are masks. They are not all equally effective.
    Note the correct name for these things is not “mask” but “respirator”

    These types of respiratos exist:-

    Single use surgical masks worn by doctors, nurses and paramedics. They are single use and discarded after 4 hours because hospitals and medical practices want to limit the probability that patient A’s disease gets transferred to patient C via hospital worker B’s mask. They are made out of paper so the holes in them are small enough to prevent most small aerosol particles getting through. They are cheap and using 1 per day is not expensive although I use mine for several days and maybe a cumulative 8 or 12 hours. If any of the 3 layers are torn or the inner layer has adhered to my face because of sweat (or the mask has been pulled off by a friendly Staffordshire bull terrier) I discard them. I know one person who claims that they can be washed with detergent rinsed and hung out to dry but this may cause the fibres to expand in turn expanding the pores and allowing particles through smaller than those they were designed to stop.

    P2 masks. The “2” after the “P” represents the maximum particle size that can get through the mask in microns that is millionths of a metre or thousandths of a millimetre. They are made out of paper so are hydroscopic. Ask an expert in masks (a doctor, nurse or paramedic or someone from a business that sells quality masks) whether moisture from breath can degrade them and expand the size of particles that can get through which may put a time limit on their use. If damage visible discard. Some P2 masks have exit valves, do not wear for preventing respiratory diseases. They provide modest protection for the wearer but none for others if the wearer is infected.
    N95 and KN95 masks. Also made out of paper and hydroscopic the 95 represents the percentage of particles that are blocked. I do not know what the maximum particle size admitted is in microns. I have seen some peole wearing ones with an exit valve but I understood them to say that there was a replaceable filter covering the inside of the exit valve. If not do not use for COVID.
    Washable masks. These are washable because they are made out of textile materials. The thread count of the textile determines the maximum particle size that can get through and a hydroscopic textile like cotton, wool or silk is better than a synthetic and non nonhydroscopic plastic material as it will tend to absorb any moisture drop that hits a fibre. Viscose is made out of wood fibre but I do not know how hydroscopic it is unless you can confirm that it absorbs moisture as well as natural fibres avoid masks made from it.

    I am not impressed with most of the washable masks that I see as they sit low on the nose, tend to slip down and do not have wire or metal bands for fitting them to the face as do the other masks earlier in this list so more air can bypass them at the top. I have seen some with a pocket to cover the lower part of the nose and would prefer these if I was not avoiding washable masks entirely.

    Improvised masks made out of handkerchiefs or scarves. Natural materials, high thread counts and folds to make multiple layers are best but since they are not designed for filtering moisture particles will probably not be as effective as a mask made for that purpose.

    Rubber respirators (gas masks) used by fire fighters and the military with screw in or clip in activated carbon cartridges. They do not filter exhaled air so give no protection for others from an infected wearer, do not use for respiratory diseases but good for bushfire smoke in this age of nonexistent global warming.

    There is a lot of information that people need to know about COVID and masks that governments have failed to disseminate and I see about 10% wearing them ineffectively and 20% wearing them in ways that use them to less than optimal effectiveness.

    Respiratory diseases are transmitted in small drops of moisture that humans (and other animals) emit when they cough, sneeze, breathe speak or sing. These particles very in size the large ones are less of a problem as they fall to the ground quickly unless an unmasked infected person coughs in an an. The small ones are referred to aerosols and can hang around in poorly ventilated spaces for some time. Early in the pandemic aerosol transmission was seriously underestimated but by the height of the delta wave most walkers in the dog park where I walk were wearing masks. Now the most have slacked of except for some East Asians and me. wearers. In NSW respirators are mandatory indoors in public places and on public transport.

    The Omega variant appears to be much more infectious that previous ones which is why masks are not as effective. So do not cease wearing as any face covering will filter out some of the particles. Obviously a mask that eliminates 99% of the particles is better than one that eliminates 95%. All masks leak around the sides top and bottom but the less they leak the more they protect. For single use surgical masks, P2, N95 & KN95 respirators there is a stiffening wire or metal strip at the top for fitting around the nose and against the bones below the eyes. I recommend as high on the bony part of the nose as you can get it without get in the way of one’s eyes or lower eyelashes. If the stiffening is used properly the mask should not slip downwards unless one speaks with exaggerated jaw movements. Glasses worn above the mask should not mist up. The reason many people tell me they don’t cover their nose is because of mist on glasses.

    There are seven holes in the human head, respiratory diseases can enter by 5 of them and exit by three. Much protection is lost if the nose is not covered. People worried about COVID entering by the eyes should wear glasses with large lenses or face shields

    Respirators do do two things that are best considered separately. They provide modest protection for the wearer (worth having) but the main thing they do is protect others from an infected wearer.

    P2, N95 and KN95 masks may need fitting to ones individual face shape. One may be able to learn how to do this oneself but initially may need a helper to test for leaks. I suspect single use surgical masks will leak a little bit on all 4 sides. However I see some who tighten the ear elastic by twisting it into a figure 8 shape. My knowledge of vectors from high school physics tells me that this pulls the top down and the bottom up and tends to create a bulge in the middle through which air may leak. I don’t know whether it actually does leak but an alternate method of tightening that will not is available, simply tie knots at appropriate places in both ear loops.

    1. I don’t know whether it actually does leak but an alternate method of tightening that will not is available, simply tie knots at appropriate places in both ear loops.

      When we were kids attempting to fix things, we learned duct tape went a long way to seal anything. Why attempt cumbersome knots when duct tape will get ‘er done?

      1. I appreciate duct tape but i this case the thing to be shortened is too small for duct tape and the knot is the simplest kind a single loop.

  12. @ tbirdal re: If Nina said it was day time and the sun was out , I would go to the window to verify it. – You might be justified in grabbing an umbrella and a flashlight without bothering with a trip to the window.

  13. Has Professor Turley published anything yet analysing the Court’s two vaccine mandate decisions?

    1. I didn’t see that Turley wrote anything yet, but Robert Barnes covered pretty good.

      Barnes still has cases pending, like employees against Tyson Foods.

      Barnes, like Turley had earlier noted that the easiest way to prevail was to, my word, Hide, behind the religious exemption. So far that turned out to be the case as the SC ruling Expanded/Strengthened the exemption according to Barnes.

      My & other issue remains that we feel that the USC gives the Govts/Courts Zero authority over forcing anyone to inject any into their body let alone this deadly/harmful mRNA Experimental Gene Therapy Crap. There is no “Emergency Exemption” in the USC for the Got/Prams against the Citizen’s Control.

      The 4th and is damn clear Govts/Supreme Court keep you hands off my balls. (Their so called vax has been soon to be screwing up guys/gals junk aready)

      Maybe in 20-40 years Govt/Big Prama we release their studies of their mRNA crap & tell the public what happened?

  14. The left is stuck in a hard place. Is she smart, or clueless?
    Sotomayor is so well informed, and such a keen ability to assess risk/benefit situations, that she would choose a mask of questionable efficacy, over participating remotely?
    Old, Obese, Diabetic. Yep, I put my faith, in other persons actions, to protect my well being.

    Whit logic like Sotomayors, its a wonder she the amount of “lived experiece” she has racked up. Her choices are stupid.

  15. If Nina said it was day time and the sun was out , I would go to the window to verify it.

  16. Progressives have a problem with admitting they are wrong. It happens quite a bit. It’s why we point and laugh at them.

  17. Elie Mystal, sums up the entirety of this blog post

    “Confirmation of what we all already knew.”

    That is the purpose of the the media today.

    This story will resurface on web sites in October to “confirm what Democrat voters already know”

    People think advertising is used to generate new sales. Some is. But a lot of advertising is to “confirm what existing customers already know”

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