by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
NPR is standing by reporting from its legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg, alleging that Justice Neil Gorsuch refused a request from Chief Justice John Roberts that he don a mask on the bench — a request that Totenberg implied was made by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is diabetic.
All three justices disputed Totenberg’s story on Wednesday.
First, Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch issued a joint statement stating that “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.”
Then, Chief Justice Roberts issued a separate statement insisting that he “did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”
Nevertheless, Totenberg wrote the following in a piece published on Wednesday evening:
“On Wednesday, Sotomayor and Gorsuch issued a statement saying that she did not ask him to wear a mask. NPR’s report did not say that she did. Then, the chief justice issued a statement saying he ‘did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.’ The NPR report said the chief justice’s ask to the justices had come ‘in some form.’”
“NPR stands by its reporting,” added Totenberg.
Yet Roberts’s statement would seem to leave little room for any form of an ask. Totenberg’s original report read as follows:
“… Sotomayor did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked. Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up. They all did. Except Gorsuch, who, as it happens, sits next to Sotomayor on the bench.”