The Supreme Court has released a statement indicating that a report earlier this week by NPR’s Nina Totenberg claiming that Justice Neil Gorsuch refused to wear a mask to accommodate Justice Sonia Sotomayor was “false.”
According to the report:
It was pretty jarring earlier this month when the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court took the bench for the first time since the omicron surge over the holidays. All were now wearing masks. All, that is, except Justice Neil Gorsuch. What’s more, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was not there at all, choosing instead to participate through a microphone set up in her chambers.
Sotomayor has diabetes, a condition that puts her at high risk for serious illness, or even death, from COVID-19. She 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.
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.
They all did. Except for 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.
“[Gorsuch’s] continued refusal since then has also meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone,” Totenberg, who has long covered the high court for the taxpayer-supported media outlet, added.
However, according to Gorsuch and Sotomayor, that report is not accurate.
“Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us,” the statement said. “It is false.
“While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends,” the statement added.
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."
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) January 19, 2022
Earlier, Fox News also noted that the NPR report was inaccurate.
Speaking to Fox News’ Bret Baier, network host and correspondent Shannon Bream noted that the NPR report said Sotomayor “did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked.”
“It then says that Justice Gorsuch who normally sits right next to Sotomayor on the bench has repeatedly refused to do so and that’s forced Justice Sotomayor to operate remotely from her office for arguments and conferences,” Bream said.
“I am told that is not accurate,” the Fox News host asserted.
“A source at the Supreme Court says there has been no blanket admonition or request from Chief Justice Roberts that the other Justices begin wearing masks to arguments,” she explained. “The source further stated Justice Sotomayor did not make any such request to Justice Gorsuch. I’m told, given that fact, there was also no refusal by Justice Gorsuch.”
“The Justices are all vaccinated and boosted and they do test before taking the bench for arguments,” Bream noted.