Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch consistently stands up for individual liberty and the Constitution. Naturally, that makes the justice a target for the establishment liberal media, whose big-government agenda his principled jurisprudence often thwarts. Yet even with this context in mind, NPR’s latest hit-job on Gorsuch is so despicable that it genuinely beggars belief.
Here’s what went down.
The Origins of the NPR Neil Gorsuch Hitjob
On Jan. 18, NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg reported a bombshell story. Gorsuch was supposedly refusing to wear a mask and thus forcing an at-risk diabetic justice, Sonia Sotomayor, into attending court proceedings virtually.
“[Sotomayor] has been the only justice to wear a mask on the bench since last fall when, amid a marked decline in COVID-19 cases, the justices resumed in-person arguments for the first time since the onset of the pandemic,” Totenberg wrote. “Now, though, the situation had changed with the omicron surge, 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 asked the other justices to mask up.”
(Wondering what the sources are? They’re unnamed and anonymous, of course).
“They all did,” the NPR reporting continues. “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.”
NPR’s reporting led to widespread denunciation of Gorsuch for being a selfish jerk and uncourteous colleague. There was just one problem: The whole anonymously-sourced story was fake, and the justices themselves directly contradicted the reporting with (very rare) public statements.
The Story Quickly Falls Apart
“I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement.
What’s more, the two justices supposedly involved in this fabricated controversy released a joint statement further debunking it.
“Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us,” Gorsuch and Sotomayor said in their statement. “It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends.”
More developments on the mask spat — SCOTUS issues ANOTHER statement, this one from the chief justice:
“I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”
Unlike the earlier statement, this one directly disputes the original report from NPR. https://t.co/jASdJXJbaM
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) January 19, 2022
Sotomayor, as the supposed victim in this narrative, has absolutely no reason to come out and defend Gorsuch, unless the underlying story is false. So, too, it’s hard to see why Roberts would put his widespread, bipartisan credibility on the line to defend Gorsuch from true reporting.
On one hand, we have anonymous sources. On the other, we have direct contradictions from all parties involved in rare public statements. Clearly, there’s no reason to believe the NPR story, and every reason to give Gorsuch the benefit of the doubt that he was not, in fact, so inconsiderate.
NPR Stands By Its Smear Story
Mistakes happen, of course. Yet NPR has refused to do the decent thing and issue a correction or apology. Somehow, Totenberg says she “stands by her reporting.”
Even more bizarrely, NPR Public Editor Kelly McBride analyzed the scandal and said, “Totenberg’s story merits a clarification, but not a correction. After talking to Totenberg and reading all justices’ statements, I believe her reporting was solid, but her word choice was misleading.”
The story was more than “misleading.” It made an outrageous accusation against a sitting Supreme Court justice without any actual evidence or on-the-record sourcing.
And literally nothing about the reporting was “solid.” It was immediately contradicted by on-the-record statements from all parties involved. If that’s “solid reporting,” I can’t imagine what shoddy reporting looks like. (Side note: McBride’s NPR bio describes her as “one of the country’s leading voices on media ethics.” Yikes!)
NPR owes Neil Gorsuch—and its entire audience—an apology. Instead, they’re choosing to double down on their smears and gaslight America.
The next time yet another poll comes out showing the American public distrusts the establishment media, NPR need only revisit this episode and others like it to understand why.