The Supreme Court “Maskgate” Story Implodes

A bombshell report about tensions within the Supreme Court over masking fell apart Thursday.


NPR published a report Tuesday detailing tensions within the Supreme Court over masking, but by Thursday the story fell apart after three Justices publicly disputed its assertions.

  • According to Totenberg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not feel safe near unmasked people due to her pre-existing conditions.
  • Totenberg reported that Chief Justice John Roberts asked “in some form” (meaning unclear) that other justices mask up.
  • She attributed Sotomayor’s decision to attend arguments remotely to Justice Neil Gorsuch’s “refusal” to wear a mask. She bolstered this contention with gossipy anecdotes about Gorsuch’s “prickly” personality.
  • Within a day, Justices Sotomayor and Gorsuch released a statement denying her reporting, and Chief Justice Roberts followed up denying he had asked any justice to mask up.
  • After these rare on-the-record statements from the justices, NPR issued a “clarification” on its reporting but refused to disavow the story. NPR’s handling of the imbroglio earned them criticism from across the political spectrum.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Slate wrote an uncharacteristically nuanced take expressing disappointment with how the justices chose to handle “Maskgate,” lamenting a missed opportunity to lower tensions.
  • The Washington Post published a satirical piece mocking Gorsuch’s “deep and abiding passion to send people to their jobs even if doing so means sending them to their deaths.” The Post has not published any updates since Roberts’ statement or NPR’s “clarification.”
  • CNN published an editorial assailing “what Justice Gorsuch’s masklessness says about society,” condemning a Supreme Court justice and half of America over a false report. There was no correction or retraction.



  • Fox News reported on NPR’s decision to imply Gorsuch and Sotomayor were liars, rather than admit that something could have been wrong with their reporting.
  • The Advisory Opinions legal podcast broke down the “Maskgate” controversy. They had an interesting discussion on the role of anonymous sourcing in reporting. They theorize one of the justices themselves was the original leaker.
  • National Review published a comprehensive examination of the NPR debacle to “clear up” the fake news NPR unleashed.

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© Dominic Moore, 2022