NPR reported the conservative justice refused to wear a mask on the bench despite requests to do so, but Gorsuch and Sotomayor issued a statement calling it a “false” story that surprised them. As the joint statement spread across the media industry, NPR reporter David Gura raised eyebrows by declaring the justices’ statement was “at best false” while he condemned reporters who passed it along.
“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,” Gura tweeted shortly after Gorsuch and Sotomayor issued their statement.
“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,” Gorsuch and Sotomayor said about NPR’s report.
NPR’s story by legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, “Gorsuch didn’t mask despite Sotomayor’s COVID worries, leading her to telework,” reported Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the justices to wear masks because of the omicron surge since Sotomayor has diabetes.
Some defenders of NPR, a left-leaning outfit and longtime favorite of elite journalists, suggested the joint statement didn’t directly respond to the allegations in the story.
Totenberg couched her language, writing, “Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up,” suggesting he did it at Sotomayor’s behest. Totenberg cited “court sources” to report Sotomayor expressed she “did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked” before Roberts made the decision.
“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,” Totenberg wrote. “Gorsuch, from the beginning of his tenure, has proved a prickly justice, not exactly beloved even by his conservative soulmates on the court.”
Many were stunned at the feedback from Gura, who previously worked at MSNBC.
On Wednesday afternoon, a statement from Roberts further disputed the report. He told Fox News, “I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.” The chief justice indicated he would have no further comment.
Fox News’ Shannon Bream contributed to this report.