'We Are Friends': Justices Sotomayor, Gorsuch Say There Was No Disagreement Over Masks

In a statement released Wednesday, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch denied a report that implied the two were in a disagreement over wearing masks in court.

Sotomayor lives with type 1 diabetes. Because of this, she has been more cautious against COVID-19 than the other justices and has attended some meetings remotely, The Washington Post reported.

A Tuesday NPR article written by Nina Totenberg said "court sources" mentioned that Sotomayor did not feel safe around unmasked people, and in response, Chief Justice John Roberts "in some form asked the other justices to mask up." Totenberg wrote that all except Gorsuch did, causing Sotomayor to refrain from attending the court's weekly conference in person.

The two justices said in a joint statement the reporting about their alleged disagreement "surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends."

According to the Associated Press, on Wednesday, Roberts said, "I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench."

It appears Sotomayor's remote participation is a result of spikes in COVID-19 spurred by the Omicron variant, not a disagreement with Gorsuch. According to The Washington Post, Sotomayor has been participating in court proceedings from her chambers using a speaker. The report added that while the rest of the justices usually wear masks, Gorsuch does not. He has not specified why.

A fellow NPR journalist criticized the statement, implying the two justices lied. David Gura, a business correspondent with the news outlet, tweeted Wednesday, "I (am) surprised at how many Supreme Court correspondents I admire are passing along a statement from two justices that is at best false without any context whatsoever."

This statement received backlash online from users on Twitter, especially from conservatives like Erick Erickson, who said NPR was "doubling down on misinformation."

In a Wednesday email to the AP, an NPR spokeswoman said, "NPR stands behind Nina Totenberg's reporting."

While individuals with type 1 diabetes are not more likely to be infected with COVID-19, their chance of developing complications is greater, especially if their blood sugars are not well controlled, according to the American Diabetes Association. Being sick makes a person with type 1 more susceptible to diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition caused by not having enough insulin in the body.

According to the Healthline website, Sotomayor has been diabetic since she was 7 years old and has been a proponent of diabetes awareness for much of her career.

Sonia Sotomayor, Neil Gorsuch, Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch said in a joint statement that reports of them being in a disagreement over COVID-19 masks are false. Above, Sotomayor, left, and Gorsuch gather with other justices of the Supreme Court for an official group portrait on June 1, 2017, in Washington, D.C. J. Scott Applewhite, File/AP Photo