Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask

Compared to the above mass fake news about mass graves that have not, in fact, been verified, NPR’s bit of false reporting on Supreme Court intrigue seems trivial, and is. NPR’s longtime liberal-leaning Supreme Court reporter impugned Democratic Party boogie man Neil Gorsuch—He stole Merrick Garland’s seat!—by writing that Mean Neil was trying to kill Justice Sotomayor ( who “has diabetes, a condition that puts her at high risk for serious illness, or even death” from the Wuhan virus) or something, because he refused to wear a mask despite Justice Roberts “asking” him to.  Sotomayor, therefore, has to participate in the Court’s work via Zoom. Gorsuch is, apparently, fully vaccinated, and doesn’t have the virus.

Therefore, he should not have to wear a mask. Gorsuch does sit next to Sotomayor on the bench, so his continued unmasked presence, Totenberg surmises without knowing, has caused  Sotomayor to choose not to attend the justices’ weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone.

In a joint statement after Totenberg’s “scoop” based on anonymous SCOTUS tipsters,  Sotomayor and Gorsuch denied her facts, conclusions and spin, which was that the mask conflict demonstrated tension on the Court.

“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.” Chief Justice Roberts issued his own statement saying, “I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.”

Totenberg subsequently has said in a report addressing the justices’ statements that “NPR stands by its reporting.” Ann Althouse, commenting on the episode, says, “Roberts, Sotomayor, and Gorsuch could all be lying or stretching the truth.” That’s true. However, lying in public is a breach of both judicial and legal ethics. Journalists today, including Totenberg, lie as a matter of course.

I know which I’m inclined to believe in this dispute.

That said, I will also say this: if it made a close workplace colleague more comfortable for me to wear a mask, as foolish as I think that is, I’d do it if the alternative was her feeling that she had to work remotely.


23 thoughts on “Fake News Watch 2: The Missing Mask

  1. That said, I will also say this: if it made a close workplace colleague more comfortable for me to wear a mask, as foolish as I think that is, I’d do it if the alternative was her feeling that she had to work remotely.

    That’s the thing. If it was a deal to her why didn’t she ask and if she did why is she now denying it? They are friends after all.

      • Really this whole story just illustrates how divisive the media is. Two things that could have easily been worked out as friends blew up into a national debate of us verses them.

      • Bingo.

        Masks are good for short bursts of contact, but if you share more than 15 minutes in the same room as someone who has Covid, absent some kickass HEPA filtration like what they have in airplanes, you’ll probably at least be exposed. Asking people that work several hours a day a couple of feet apart to mask is the epitome of Kabuki Theatre.

  2. Well, shame on those who would call Totenberg’s story fake news when it is as clear as can be that there simply was one poor word choice. Take it from NPR, which ‘investigated’ itself and discovered that the only flaw was that a word choice was misleading.” Nothing wrong with the reporting – just a need for a little clarification. https://www.npr.org/sections/publiceditor/2022/01/20/1074540207/npr-reporting-on-supreme-court-mask-controversy-merits-clarification
    Totenberg stated that Chief Justice Roberts “in some form asked the other justices to mask up.” Never mind that Totenberg had no idea if Roberts had actually asked, or perhaps suggested, or perchance implied, or maybe doodled an image of masks, or possibly just thought they should mask up, she wrote “in some form” so her story is accurate.
    Now, to a casual reader, someone devoid of critical thinking skills, the statement that ‘Roberts asked’ would mean that he asked. So, that’s why clarification is needed, and that’s why the verb ‘asked’ was just a poor word choice.
    At the link, the NPR clarifier says, “I believe her reporting was solid.” It’s clear we all should believe that, too.

    • > “No one has challenged the broader focus of Totenberg’s original story, which asserts that the justices in general are not getting along well. The controversy over the anecdotal lead, which was intended to be illustrative, has overwhelmed the uncontested premise of the story.”

      Ah, that’s a more wordy way to say “Fake, but accurate.” If only Dan Rather had been this verbose, he might not have been ridiculed.

      • “No one has challenged the broader focus of Totenberg’s original story, which asserts that the justices in general are not getting along well.”

        Yeah, no one BUT THE JUSTICES THEM DAMN SELVES in public statements.
        Some days it’s like the Press doesn’t even understand the plain meanings of the words they use.


    • (eyeroll) If this were directed at one of the conservative justice’s spouses the same publication would be squawking to “leave them alone! Families are off limits!” What a steaming pile. We talked a lot about this, but Ginsburg had her chance to step down in 2013-2014, and she said no. I think she was a little too proud, thought Hillary was a shoe-in for 2016 (a lot of us did), and wanted to be there to swear in the first female president. It would have been a photo on the level of Karsh’s iconic portrait of Churchill and the VJ kiss in Times Square. Every little girl would have had it on her wall next to Sally Ride and Marie Curie and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would leave the Court as a living legend… except that’s not how it played. I don’t know what Breyer’s game is. I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumps ship at the end of this term, when he’ll be 83 years old (he turns 84 in August) and can say that his work is done and not appear to have been forced off, yet give Joe a chance to nominate and confim whoever he wants, most likely that all-important black woman. If he goes then, kol b’seder, if he doesn’t live till then, nothing changes.

    • And there’s a very narrow window for this. The midterms are in November and it’s likely that Republicans take the senate. Once that happens, Biden will either have to appoint actual moderates, or experience new heights of “Republican Obstructionism”.

      One of the unfortunate parts of this is that McConnel didn’t just say “We control the senate, and we don’t like this guy” when it came to Merrick Garland, because with two years left in Biden’s term, justice Garland has about as much chance of making it through this time as he did last. Just saying. And the optics are going to be awful.

      • In 2016 Garland was seen as a relatively moderate candidate for the court. Absent the election considerations, it’s likely he’d have sailed through, I think.
        Now? Moral luck but lots of people are breathing big sighs of relief he didn’t make it to the court.
        Today Garland would be seen as a radical if Biden nominated him. He’d be lucky to get 50 votes.

        • I mean… You’re right, generally, but I think he might be able to get through *right now*, Manchin or Sinema may or may not vote for his confirmation, but I don’t know if it would be pure party lines on the Republican side. Romney hits me as someone who might vote to confirm.

          And if, right now, Democrats couldn’t even whip a SCOTUS nominee through confirmation while staring down a Red Wave in 2022, taking the decision completely out of their hands, then Biden’s administration is over. I’ve been saying things like that for a while, there were all kinds of things that happened over the last year that signaled a spiraling lack of control, but if Biden can’t get the squad and the moderates on the same side long enough to prevent a 6th “conservative” justice from being confirmed, he’s done.

  3. If this little goat rodeo isn’t a prime example of media shit stirrers shit stirring, I don’t know what is. NPR shows itself to be incredibly brazen here. I wonder who Totenberg’s source is now that Ginsberg has left the building. Maybe not as reliable?

    • Well, gosh, OB, it sounds as if you don’t trust Totenberg, yet, the ‘clarification’ by NPR makes it clear that, although the sources must be concealed, they are solid.
      “Totenberg said she has multiple, solid sources familiar with the inner workings of the court who told her that Roberts conveyed something to his fellow justices about Sotomayor’s concerns in the face of the omicron wave. Totenberg said her NPR editors were aware of who those sources are and stood by the reporting.”
      See, “multiple solid sources”. Now, if they were ethereal sources, then I too might have some doubts.

  4. The media transformation from relatively accurate reporting to lying about everything has been a sight to behold. It was an incremental process that started with bias and evolved into just making stuff up.

    The media started out by omitting a fact or two they didn’t like from coverage. No need to confuse anyone with extraneous data that might be interpreted wrongly. The media has a duty to keep people informed with easily interpretable information.

    This bias led to the next bias stage, which entailed neglecting to cover stories that were inconvenient to a narrative. People don’t need to know everything. They only need to know the important things. If you report unimportant things, people might get distracted from the important things. The media has a duty to keep people informed of all the important things and they cannot do that if people are distracted by unimportant things.

    Then the media started adding opinions to straight news articles and presenting them as fact so people wouldn’t get confused. You have to explain to people why the facts they are looking at don’t say what a normal person would think they say, you see. It is important to be clear. Clarity is important when informing people of things! You cannot just tell people the facts, you need to explain them. Otherwise people might have opinions that conflict with the truth. Then they might question the truth, and questions lead to confusion and misinformation. Confused, misinformed people don’t know the truth. The media has a duty to inform people of the truth.

    Next came taking things out of context to reinforce desired narratives and attack undesirable truths. The moral truth is the truth, so the context is whatever the moral truth says it is, and whatever actually happened is irrelevant. No one needs to worry about what actually happened, they need to worry about the moral truth, and the media has a duty to provide that moral truth by any means necessary.

    Following that was the trend of getting someone to lie to a reporter, then report the lies as if they were truth. These people told the moral truth, so it was true regardless of anything else that might be inaccurate. Inaccurate but morally true is the same as truth when it serves the moral good. The lie serves the moral good, and that is a fact that makes all other facts subordinate to the main morally good truth, which puts them in context and clarifies things. Clarity is good because it prevents misinformation and lies. The media has a duty to provide morally good truth to the people.

    After that, the media started skipping the step of getting someone to lie, and just started using non-existent “anonymous” sources who “told” the lies instead, which were also reported as truth. Why should they wait for someone to tell the morally good truth. Morally good truth is always true, regardless of whether anyone says it or not. The media has a duty to tell the morally good truth to people, so it is justified and good to have hypothetical people saying morally true things on the front page of the New York Times.

    Now we have reached the point of outright making things up because they are probably true according to the voices in some reporters head, they are morally good and no one has stopped them yet.

    Once you can essentially lie by taking things out of context and twisting them around to mean things they don’t mean, what is to stop you from just making things up entirely to tell the story you want to tell? You are already lying, why not take it a bit further. Why not invent a source and say what you think they ought to say? Then, once you are making stuff up, why not go one step further and just start printing whatever you can imagine? Who cares about the actual truth?

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