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The Ridiculous SCOTUS Mask Story Managed to Embarrass Many in the Media

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Townhall Media

"Riffed from the Headlines" is Townhall's daily VIP feature with coverage on the deeply flawed aspects of journalism in the nation. We'll look to bring accountability to the mishaps, malaprops, misdeeds, manipulations, malpractice, and manufactured narratives in mainstream media.


Artisanally-Crafted Narratives – NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO

  • When anonymous sources are more valid than those they are reporting on.

On Tuesday, NPR's Nina Totenberg gave the laughable report that Justice Sonia Sotomayor was remote working because that cad Justice Neil Gorsuch refused to wear a mask. It took little time for that story to be refuted, and yesterday, all three justices involved came out to disavow the entire story, blasting it into confetti.

Ms. Totenberg gave a follow-up report, where she defended herself by parsing words.

- "On Wednesday, Sotomayor and Gorsuch issued a statement saying that she did not ask him to wear a mask. 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.'"

This is the moment when they should just take the L, but as we will see, this is not the NPR method. 

Low Octane Gas Lighting – NPR

  • Suggesting justices are lying about protect the integrity of sources.

As the SCOTUS mask story was unraveling, fellow NPR Correspondent David Gura rushed to Totenberg's defense by – trashing the members of the Supreme Court?

For Gura to take this position, he is maintaining that the anonymous sources who detailed what the justices were doing are more valid on the activities of the justices than the justices themselves. Also, any journalists who are taking the justices at their word and not following the nameless, faceless sources on the story are somehow in the wrong. This is just an astounding hill for Gura to die upon, but die he did.

Reporting on the Mirror – CNN

  • In the face of blatant media malpractice, Brian Stelter can find nothing on which to be critical.

For two days, CNN's media custodian has struggled with how to cover the NPR fiasco. It was first referred to as being "incredibly well-sourced," which could only be known if the follow-up confirmation made by CNN's Ariane de Vogue used the same sources. The next, after the story started falling apart, Stelter insults Fox News which had their own report debunking it.

Stelter rested on Totenberg relying on her use of "in some form" as her escape clause rather than admitting the justices all called the story garbage. Nina's phraseology does not absolve her, because, in her initial report, she was blatant in saying:

- "[Gorsuch's] continued refusal since then has also meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices' weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone."

Not only do the justice's dispute this, but Sotomayor reportedly announced working remotely before any of these dramatics allegedly flared up. 

Anti-Social Media – DAILY BEAST

  • Finding the real problem rests with the outlet that never reported on it.

The Stelter-of-the-Beast, Justin Baragona, also weighed in on the story, and he took an expected angle. The Fox-obsessed Baragona noted that the news channel was promoting the media being caught lying and awaited to see any corrections to be issued.

Justin looked over the story unfolding and saw where criticism should rest – with Fox News.

So if Fox News gets a story wrong, the problem is with Fox; when other outlets get a story wrong, the problem…is still with Fox.

The good news is that next time Justin energetically details a problem with the news channel, we can just dismiss it as him becoming elated and then ignore anything further.


  • Weaving conspiracies based on justices detailing their own lives.

Making things more amazing still are the number of journalists who jumped on the story and now are caught off guard. Instead of detailing the facts and issuing a culpa, a few members of the industry instead turned in another direction – these judges are lying!

That is one hot take. Then the desire to knee-jerk defend Totenberg by relying on her parsing of words bit this one hard.

Next, we have a bleeding heart, unaware that all members of SCOTUS have been vaccinated, boosted, as is anyone who is presenting arguments before the Court. Also, he is unaware that two weeks ago, none of the justices wore masks, and there was no drama. 

This laugher has not aged well. Pluck someone from a middle school civics classroom, and you might be able to do better. 


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