NPR Lied: Sonia Sotomayor Hit by the Fake News Truck

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The huge story that every media outlet was repeating yesterday, that Justice Sonia Sotomayor was super ticked off that Justice Neil Gorsuch is refusing to wear a mask and as a result, Sotomayor is hiding in her office, turns out to be a fake news hoax that National Public Radio (NPR) pulled on everyone.


(I still have my doubts. I think it’s possible Sotomayor may have realized after she told someone that she’s scared of Gorsuch’s air expulsion that it really made her look stupid and now she regrets it. Either way, I’m happy to blame the fake news.)

Fox News reported:

Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor issued a joint statement Wednesday disputing a recent NPR report as “false” after the liberal media organization claimed the conservative justice refused to wear a mask on the bench despite requests to do so.

“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 in a joint statement to the media.

A source told Fox News that there was no directive from Roberts for other justices to wear masks and those who do have been doing so of their own accord.

So, what’s going on with NPR? Why did they just make this story up? Or did they get hoaxed by an “unnamed source?” I’ve got the whole transcript archived so they can’t make it disappear down the memory hole. In a longer piece aimed at disparaging the conservatives on the Supreme Court, Nina Totenberg claimed that “sources” told NPR that Sotomayor and Gorsuch were at odds over masking.


STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Justices of the Supreme Court like to tell audiences how well they get along, even when they have profound legal disagreements. Some of that collegiality appears to be wearing thin now, and that has potential consequences. Here’s NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: It was pretty jarring when the justices took the bench for the first time after the holidays amid the omicron surge. All were wearing masks – all, that is, except Justice Neil Gorsuch. What’s more, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was not there at all, choosing instead to participate from her chambers. Sotomayor is a longtime diabetic, a condition that puts her at high risk for serious illness or even death if she were to catch COVID-19. Indeed, she was the only justice who wore a mask when the court resumed in-person arguments while cases were down last fall.

Now, though, the situation had changed, and, according to court sources, Sotomayor did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked. Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form or other 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.

You don’t have to be a keen observer these days to see that something out of the ordinary is happening. Some of it’s traceable to the new conservative supermajority, including three Trump appointees – a court that may well end up being more conservative than any since the 1930s. So it’s not surprising that the court’s three liberal justices would be upset. It’s the degree of the upset, though, that telegraphs something different.


Why are they allowed to do this? When we have the justices themselves coming out now and saying this is false, I think we should be able to demand the “source” from Totenberg who allegedly told her this happened. NPR hasn’t even taken the story down or issued a retraction yet. Why? Nothing they said happened, apparently.

Jonathan Turley knows why Nina Totenberg did this.

Totenberg has been previously accused of bias by Republican and conservatives on her takes on the Supreme Court. In one incident, NPR itself expressed regret that Totenberg did not reveal a close personal relationship with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg despite years of coverage. We previously discussed another dubious story where she attacked Gorsuch while extolling the brilliance of Justice Elena Kagan.

But Totenberg, by spreading this false rumor, not only led to unfair criticism of Gorsuch but also did the same to Sotomayor because it led to pieces like mine where I defended Gorsuch and dragged Sotomayor over some very spicy coals! Totenberg made that happen! Now the right thinks Sotomayor is a Branch Covidian, and the left thinks Neil Gorsuch is a Grinch who doesn’t care if Sotomayor lives or dies! That’s all Totenberg’s fault.


Related: Media Meltdown Over Justice Sotomayor’s Failure to Cope with the Risk of Living

I’m standing by my report yesterday where I admonished the media for making a big story out of this stupid workplace tiff (that didn’t happen). And I still believe Justice Sotomayor should take better care of herself and so should everyone who is worried about COVID. That’s still a valid critique—although I wouldn’t have made it so harshly if Totenberg had told the truth. (Although the line about chasing after a healthy lifestyle instead of a second cheeseburger was one of my funnier quips, and I don’t regret it.) It’s still a good guideline for anyone out there suffering from COVID-induced hypochondria that you don’t tell others what to do. You take care of you, and that’s it. Stop imposing your mental disorders on others. It’s rude. 

But it does seem like Sotomayor may not be a COVID-panicked mental case, so that’s good. We need people made of tougher stuff on the highest court.

As for the fake news hit on Sotomayor, I’m rather glad it happened. Welcome to our world, your honor. Feels bad when the enemy of the people lies about you, doesn’t it?


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