“Tragically, anti-mask insanity has now reached the highest court in the land,” MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace dramatically declared on Tuesday.
MSNBC star Joy Reid told viewers that Gorsuch “loves COVID – which makes him the perfect Republican” and thinks “very little” of pandemic precautions, calling him a “rotten co-worker, dangerous to be near during the pandemic and tonight’s absolute worst.”
Mehdi Hasan, a host on NBC’s Peacock streaming service, said Gorsuch was “priortizing his right to be a tool over protecting Sonia Sotomayor’s life” and that his behavior was “pretty disgraceful.” He then broadened his attacks to “conservatives in public life” who “claim to be such pious Christians and obsess over morals and decency are actually awful, awful people.”
During an interview with NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg, who authored the botched report, CNN’s Kasie Hunt asked “What’s up with Justice Gorsuch?” adding “If all the other- including all the other conservative justices on the Supreme Court are willing to go along with this, why not him?”
“The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg had a stern message for the conservative justice.
“Neil Gorsuch, shame on you. Shame on you,” Goldberg said with a scowl as she pointed her finger to the camera.
“Shame, shame, shame,” co-host Joy Behar is heard saying in the background.
Several media outlets took the story at face value including USA Today, The Daily Beast, New York Magazine, Business Insider and Newsweek.
The Washington Post went all-in on the NPR story. Columnist Alexandra Petri took a swipe at Gorsuch by satirically listing all the “occupational hazards” he would also dismiss.
The Post’s Editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes depicted Gorsuch in a political cartoon as the sole maskless justice on the bench while putting his legs up on Sotomayor’s empty seat, titling it, “Justice Gorsuch, maskless manspreader.”
Several journalists and pundits also took to Twitter and offered their condemnation of Gorsuch.
“What is the strength or principle in refusing colleagues’ health concerns during a pandemic? For Gorsuch or Rodgers or Djokovic?” CNN anchor Jim Sciutto asked, referring to the Green Bay Packers quarterback and the tennis superstar.
“This story captures incredible drama within the country’s highest court,” CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera hyped the NPR report.
“Very cool that this impossibly callous guy with poisonous levels of self-regard will be on our tribunal of unelected lawmakers for the rest of his life,” New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote.
“As I wrote in @TheAlantic recently, there are two pandemics right now – the virus itself and the pandemic of selfishness,” The Atlantic contributing writer Jemele Hill tweeted.
“Confirmation of what we already knew. Whatever you think about masks, Gorsuch, who sits next to Sotomayor at work, just decided to be a d— to a colleague,” The Nation correspondent Elie Mystal knocked the justice.
“So glad I voted no on this jerk,” MSNBC analyst Claire McCaskill wrote, recalling her tenure as a Democratic senator. “What kind of guy does this? I could tell in my meeting with him that he thought he was better than everyone else, more important, smarter. Ugh.”
“I really can’t get over how damn rude and inconsiderate this is,” CNN contributor Ana Navarro reacted. “Jeesh. It’s not like she was asking him for a kidney. I’d like to think most people would be decent enough to make the minor sacrifice of wearing a mask to protect a colleague with a medical precondition.”
On Tuesday, NPR’s chief legal affairs correspondent alleged tensions were brewing between Gorsuch and Sotomayor over his refusal to wear a mask despite her having diabetes, which makes her vulnerable to COVID.
“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,” Totenberg wrote. “Chief Justice John Roberts, understanding that, in some form asked the other justices to mask up. They all did. 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.”
Fox News’ Shannon Bream reported Tuesday on “Special Report” that NPR’s reporting was “not accurate,” according to a source, saying there was never a request by Roberts for everyone to wear masks, Sotomayor never made such a request to Gorsuch and Gorsuch never refused to wear a mask.
On Wednesday, Gorsuch and Sotomayor issued an unprecedented joint statement declaring the NPR’s story “false.”
“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 statement read.
Roberts flatly denied NPR’s reporting, stating, “I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”
NPR repeatedly defended its report both after the Gorsuch-Sotomayor statement and the Roberts statement, telling Fox News it was standing by Totenberg’s report.
The veteran NPR journalist doubled down on her reporting, writing in a follow-up article, “What is incontrovertible is that all the justices have at once started wearing masks—except Gorsuch. Meanwhile, Justice 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.”
Totenberg shared her report, tweeting “NPR stands by my reporting,” which was panned by critics.