Things Get Salty at NPR Between Totenberg, Editors Over Botched SCOTUS Mask Story – Opinion

The palace intrigue at NPR HQ has hit a fever pitch in the aftermath of the “news” outlet’s most recognizable court reporter Nina Totenberg filing a story Tuesday on alleged tensions between Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor over mask-wearing that the two Justices and Chief Justice John Roberts shot down the next day.

Totenberg said that she was told by her court sources that Gorsuch wore a mask in court proceedings because of the dispute. Sotomayor decided to join court recently from Sotomayor’s chambers, via microphone for hearing cases and via telephone to their weekly conferences.

Central to Sotomayor’s supposed decision was that Roberts “in some form asked the other justices to mask up” in deference to the alleged concerns of Sotomayor, who is diabetic and at high risk for catching COVID, but that Gorsuch allegedly refused.

The viral story spread quickly on social media. This led to predictable outrage from The Usual Suspects about Gorsuch. National news outlets such as CNN, CNBC and The USA Today picked it up.

The Justices denied that the story, contrary to what was stated above. Gorsuch and Sotomayor issued a rare joint public statement saying that “Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. This is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends.” Roberts issued a rare public statement not long after, saying simply “I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”

Fox News is also available reported – before the statements were even issued – that their court sources said the story was untrue.

NPR has faced a lot of criticism for the botched story. Readers are demanding explanations. Predictably, the left latched on to Sotomayor’s and Gorsuch’s statement, proclaiming they didn’t actually debunk what Totenberg reported> But Roberts statement nullified all that, and behind the scenes tensions have been rising at NPR between Totenberg and the editors.

After a “clarification” from public editor Kelly McBride was issued, where she said that Totenberg should have used better wording than “suggested in some form,” Totenberg threw a tantrum:

“She can write any godd**n thing she wants, whether or not I think it’s true,” Totenberg told The Daily Beast on Thursday night. “She’s not clarifying anything!”

Totenberg laughed, and added: “I haven’t even looked at it, and I don’t care to look at it because I report to the news division, she does not report to the news division.”


“A non-denial denial from two of them doesn’t work,” Totenberg said, referring to the statement from Sotomayor and Gorsuch. As to Roberts, she said, “the other just refuses to accept the fact that I did not say that he requested that people do anything, but in some form did.”

“I have got nothing to say, except that I am sticking by my reporting,” Totenberg said, while eating dinner. “I think it is absolutely valid.”

Problematizing matters further is the apparent inability to NPR doesn’t stand by their public editor, either:

A spokesperson for NPR told The Daily Beast late Thursday that “we stand behind Nina Totenberg’s reporting.” The NPR official added: “The public editor is independent and does not speak for NPR.”

If Totenberg’s behavior isn’t the epitome of a self-important divaesque elitist Beltway reporter, I don’t know what is.

But beyond the observation that Totenberg’s expletive-laced denials don’t really add up is the fact that the Public Editor’s “clarification” was off the mark for reasons that Totenberg inadvertently suggested and more.

First off, the word games from Totenberg and McBride don’t cancel out Roberts’ blanket statement. Second, McBride seemed to want to keep hope alive that the underlying narrative of Totenberg’s piece – that the Justices don’t get along – was accurate. John Sexton of Hot Air, our sister website, pointed out in his response that this narrative was not accurate. the tweet from the public editor, which has been ratio’d:

This story has no winners for NPR. Not Totenberg, NPR or the public editor. This story is the sole winner for conservatives, who just added it to their lengthy list of reasons that NPR must be defunded.

Flashback:The #DefundNPR trend after fake news was spread by NPR about the Louisville Incident involving car and demonstrators

Follow Us