How Many Supreme Court Justices Must Deny NPR’s Reporting Before Media Outlets Believe Them?

You want to hear gossip? There have been rumors about the Supreme Court of the United States lately. These rumors are especially concerning the institution that is notoriously secretive. The Court has recently heard several important cases relating to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates for private sector workers and health care workers—but members of the public who closely followed the oral arguments might have noticed that Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not appear in person; she participated virtually, from her chambers.

Due to a diabetes-related condition, Sotomayor is among the COVID-prudent justices. Sotomayor wears a mask and is now waiting for the omicron variant. That’s her right, of course—the justice should do whatever is best for her health.

According to media reports Sotomayor was concerned that he would be seen in public because a colleague had not worn a mask. Chief Justice John Roberts demanded that all justices don masks. However, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch refused.

Nina Totenberg (NPR’s legal affairs correspondent) made the claim in a blistering report this week. Her words were:

Court sources say that Sotomayor felt unsafe in close quarters to unmasked people. Chief Justice John Roberts was aware of this, and requested that the other justices mask themselves.

They did. But Gorsuch is not among them. Sotomayor, who has refused to attend the weekly justices conference since that time, has instead joined by phone.

Gorsuch was widely denounced for his book, “The Book of Gorsuch”. A Republic, If You Can Keep ItIt laments the loss in civility both in political discourse and public speech.

What man would refuse to put on a mask to help his immunocompromised friend, even if he decries the inhumanity of political actors? This would be absurd.

Here’s the problem. NPR’s reporting has been challenged.

First, Fox News’ Shannon Bream did some digging of her own, and her SCOTUS sources said the report was untrue—Gorsuch did It is notWe refuse to accept a mask-up request.

Dueling news stories—one from the progressive mainstream, another from a right-leaning outlet—are hard to adjudicate. The Supreme Court helped us make it simpler. Yesterday Gorsuch and Sotomayor issued a joint statement that put the rumor to rest.

We were shocked to hear that Justice Sotomayor requested Justice Gorsuch wear a mask. This is false. It is false. We may disagree on certain laws, but we are good friends and warm coworkers.”

Is that the end of the story? Not quite. Charlotte Clymer (progressive activist) called it a “distraction” because technically NPR had reported Roberts acting for Sotomayor that Gorsuch was asked to hide, and not Sotomayor. I guess we’ll never know for sure…but wait! A statement was also released by the chief justice. The chief justice also stated that Gorsuch was not asked to don a mask.

A rational person would consider the case closed. You can believe Roberts, Gorsuch and Sotomayor are lying about it. Go right ahead. It’s clear that we need to feel the same way about it if all parties in an alleged dispute claim it didn’t happen.

However, some of the damage was done. NPR’s NPR Story was retold many times. NewsweekBy The Daily BeastBy MSNBC, CNN, Politico USA TodayThe Business Insider and many other publications.

The New York TimesJamelle Bouie called Gorsuch “an impossibly cruel guy with poisonous self-regard.” That was one of the politer descriptions. Drew Holden (conservative writer) has other threads. He also keeps the receipts.

How many people will see the first story and not know the crucial clarification information? I have to wonder how many others will lose faith in the media over a botched story like this—or have already lost faith, due to the sheer frequency with which poorly and anonymously sourced stories are pushed by the media, and then fall apart days later.