NPR is standing squarely behind its report claiming that Chief Justice John Roberts "in some form" requested that Supreme Court justices wear face masks, despite a statement in which Roberts unequivocally declared that he had never asked his colleagues to use masks while on the bench.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor has taken part in arguments from her chambers since the beginning of January, according to the Associated Press, which noted that except for Neil Gorsuch, the other members of the court have been sporting masks when they hear arguments together in the courtroom.
In a Tuesday article, NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg claimed that "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."
Sotomayor and Gorsuch released a joint statement on Wednesday in which they said that Sotomayor had never asked Gorsuch to wear a mask.
"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," the two justices said in their statement.
Then later on Wednesday, Roberts issued a statement in which he said, "I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench."
But in the face of these statements, NPR has continued to indicate that it stands by its original reporting.
"On Wednesday, Sotomayor and Gorsuch issued a statement saying that she did not ask him to wear a mask," Totenberg wrote in a piece on Wednesday. "NPR's report did not say that she did. Then, the chief justice issued a statement saying he 'did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.' The NPR report said the chief justice's ask to the justices had come 'in some form.'"
Totenberg declared that, "NPR stands by its reporting."
She then continued, "What is incontrovertible is that all the justices have at once started wearing masks — except Gorsuch. Meanwhile, Sotomayor has stayed out of the courtroom. Instead, she has participated remotely in the court's arguments and the justices' weekly conference, where they discuss the cases and vote on them."
Critics pounced on a tweet in which Totenberg noted that NPR is standing behind her reporting.
"Your reporting is trash. Every party named in it says it's a lie," Nicholas Fondacaro of the Media Research Center's NewsBusters tweeted.
"Thank you for confirming what a joke @NPR has become," another person declared.