#Maskgate is sickening. You’re sick of #Maskgate. Justices are tired of #Maskgate. There is still #Maskgate.
NPR’s public Editor wrote Thursday evening a piece titled, “NPR reporting the Supreme Court conceal controversy deserves clarification.” Subtitle: “NPR reporting on Supreme Court mask controversy merits clarification.” This article was published 24 hours after Nina Totenberg said that NPR would stand by her reporting.
NPR stands by my reportinghttps://t.co/eEtiNgMQet
— Nina Totenberg (@NinaTotenberg) January 19, 2022
The only thing that can redeem this exchange at this stage is reflection on the way the media works.
Tuesday morning Nina Totenberg included this information in her publication about the Supreme Court’s “Scorpions”.
However, things had altered with the omicron wave. Court sources say that Sotomayor was not comfortable being in close proximity to unmasked persons. Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up.
Tuesday afternoon, Nina offered slightly different remarks on a live broadcast:
But now with the omicron surge, the situation had changed. And according to court sources, Sotomayor didn’t feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked. So Chief Justice John Roberts was aware of this and took some measures to address it. or other suggested that the other justices mask up.
You see the difference? First, Totenberg said “in some form Frequently Asked Questions.” Second, Totenberg said “in some form or another We suggest.” It is possible to have a hugeDifference between Chief asking and Chief suggesting
NPR’s public editor now says that “asked” is misleading.
Totenberg’s tale deserves clarification but not correction. After speaking with Totenberg and reviewing all the statements by justices, it was clear that she reported solidly, but her words were misleading.
It is not clear to me what the distinction between “clarification” or “correction” means.
This explanation was offered by Totenberg, the public editor
Roberts did it exactly the right way. In some way, ask or suggest that his colleagues cover up? Totenberg told me she hedged on this: “If I knew exactly how he communicated this I would say it. Instead I said ‘in some form.’ “
That phrasing is at the core of the dispute. Totenberg said she has multiple, solid sources familiar with the inner workings of the court who told her that Roberts conveyed something to his fellow justices about Sotomayor’s concerns in the face of the omicron wave.
What did Roberts conveyed? Totenberg does not know. How did Roberts convey the message? Totenberg does not know. What a thin reed to stand on.
The more prudent approach would be to say nothing at all. These unsourced leaks are inherently unreliable–especially with so few corroborating facts. Here is the advice given by the public editor:
Totenberg and her editors should have chosen a word other than “asked.” And she could have been clear about how she knew there was subtle pressure to wear masks (the nature or even exact number of her anonymous sources) and what she didn’t know (exactly how Roberts was communicating).
I also did not realize that Twitter flagged Totenberg’s story as “potentially false.” She got the Trump treatment!
NPR got a black eye here.
In the absence of a clarification, NPR risks losing credibility with audience members who see the plainly worded statement from Roberts and are forced to go back to NPR’s story and reconcile the nuances of the verb “asked” when in fact, it’s not a nuanced word. . . .
The disconnect between the story and Chief Justice Roberts’ statement is concerning to many NPR listeners and readers who wrote to us. . . . .
The way NPR’s story was originally worded, news consumers must choose between believing the chief justice or believing Totenberg. A clarification improving on the verb choice that describes the inner workings of the court would solve that dilemma.
Meanwhile, there have been no updates posted on Ariane de Vogue’s articles. Her claims were somewhat different.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been listening to arguments remotely from her chambers because she doesn’t feel comfortable sitting on the bench near colleagues who are not masked, including Justice Neil Gorsuch, according to a source familiar with the situation. . . .
At the beginning of the term, Sotomayor wore a mask on the bench at many cases. Another source familiar with the situation said that after Omicron surged, Sotomayor expressed her concerns to Chief Justice John Roberts. The source said she did not directlyAsk GOrsuch to wear a mask. She participated via remote during arguments.
So what do you think of this whole thing? Sotomayor voiced her concerns to the Chief and the Chief suggested that other people wear masks. Perhaps he said he would wear a mask.
This controversy should be over. One silver lining in this situation is that media outlets will likely not publish leaked information from SCOTUS.