Mask Mix Up: Sotomayor and Gorsuch Release Joint Statement After NPR’s Supreme Court Mask Claims

© Steve Petteway/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United StatesOfficial Portrait of SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Official Portrait of SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.01.2022
Confusion ensued after an article from NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported that Chief Justice John Roberts asked all justices to wear their masks, which Justice Neil Gorsuch refused. His refusal thereby forced Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is diabetic, to work remotely from her chambers, joining court arguments via virtual communication.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg wrote an article this Tuesday claiming that “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,” Totenberg added.
Mike Davis, a former law clerk for Justice Gorsuch, wasted no time in taking to Twitter to bash Totenberg’s claims. “Fact Check: 100% False. The Chief never asked his colleagues to mask up, for any reason,” he posted.
Fox News also debunked claims: “A source at the Supreme Court says there have been no blanket admonition or request from Chief Justice Roberts that the other justices begin wearing masks to arguments. The source further states Justice Sotomayor did not make any such request to Justice Gorsuch,” said Fox News reporter Shannon Bream.
However, a joint statement from Sotomayor and Gorsuch isn’t doing much to clarify the mix-up.
“JUST IN. SCOTUS releases a short joint statement from Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch: ‘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,’” according to the Twitter account @SCOTUSblog.
The statement is odd, considering NPR’s article did not claim Sotomayor asked Gorsuch to wear a mask, but states that it was the Chief Justice who did so. “The statement released by Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch does not contradict the reporting in Totenberg’s piece,” NPR said in a statement.
A report by Bloomberg also claimed that while it’s true that Gorsuch was reportedly not wearing a mask during Wednesday’s hearings, none of the justices said anything about requesting masks to be worn.
Although Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch have argued frequently on legal matters, the two have been able to work together to promote issues like civics education and agreed on the threat of misinformation to national security.
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