Although the two justices are often on opposite sides of a judicial decision, both Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch have issued a statement regarding a recent report on a supposed dispute between the two justices.
NPR, a media organization, reported that conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch refused to wear a mask while on the bench with other justices. The report related that Gorsuch’ supposed refusal to wear a mask had led Justice Sonia Sotomayor to work remotely during the current SCOTUS session.
This report was written and released by Nina Totenberg, who is a legal affairs correspondent for the network. NPR is often considered a talk-radio program, but they also operate a website and release written reports as well.
Mike Davis, a former clerk to Justice Gorsuch, said that the report was deliberately false, and it was an attempt to smear Gorsuch. Davis also said that the NPR story was linked to an opinion piece from CNN.
The Chief Justice, in response to the NPR report, said that he had not requested anyone on the Court wear a mask.
The statement from Sotomayor and Gorsuch said: “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.”
Totenburg’s story made claims that Chief Justice John Roberts, also often considered a conservative, had ordered all justices to wear masks due to both the Omicron surge as well as Sotomayor’s diabetes. Totenburg also suggested that Sotomayor had prodded Roberts to order the wearing of masks, and said that Sotomayor “did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked.” Totenburg cited “court sources” for her information.
Totenburg also referred to Justice Gorsuch as a “prickly justice,” and that not even the conservative justices on the Court particularly care for Gorsuch. The NPR story stated that Sotomayor sits beside Gorsuch on the bench.
Fox’s Shannon Bream was the first to pick up the story as “false.” She reported on the incorrect nature of the NPR story on Tuesday night during her telecast, “Fox News at Night.”
According to Ms. Bream, who appeared on Special Edition with Bret Baier, briefly related on the broadcast that her sources had found the NPR report to be false. Bream told Baier, “I am told that is not accurate.”
On her broadcast, Bream related that there had been no request by Chief Justice Roberts that all justices wear a mask, that Justice Sotomayor had not made any such request to Gorsuch, and that Gorsuch had not refused any request of that sort.
The NPR story was broadcast across multiple media outlets, including CNBC, USA Today, and Rolling Stone magazine.
When appearing on Fox News and speaking with Sandra Smith, Mike Davis also slammed the media who had picked up the false story. It remains to be seen whether there will be a retraction of the story now that the justices involved have made a public statement.