Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor say they're 'warm colleagues' after report he refused to wear a mask around her

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Supreme Court justices
Supreme Court justices Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor have responded to reporting about an alleged mask dispute.

On Tuesday, NPR reported that Chief Justice John Roberts asked the justices on the Supreme Court to wear a mask but that Gorsuch, who sits next to Sotomayor, has declined to do so. "His continued refusal since then has also meant that Sotomayor has not attended the justices' weekly conference in person, joining instead by telephone," NPR wrote.

In a statement on Wednesday, Gorsuch and Sotomayor disputed the story, saying, "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 wording of their statement raised some questions, though, given that NPR's original story didn't actually claim that Sotomayor asked Gorsuch to wear a mask. Instead, the outlet reported that Sotomayor, who is at high risk for COVID-19 due to her diabetes, "did not feel safe in close proximity to people who were unmasked" and that Gorsuch had been declining to wear one after Roberts "in some form asked the other justices to mask up."

CNN had previously backed up NPR, reporting that Sotomayor has been listening into oral arguments remotely because she's not comfortable sitting near unmasked colleagues like Gorsuch. Still, CNN said that according to its source, Sotomayor "did not directly ask Gorsuch to wear a mask." Fox News chief legal correspondent Shannon Bream disputed NPR's reporting, saying, "I am told that is not accurate. A source at the Supreme Court says there have been no blanket admonition or request from Chief Justice Roberts that the other justices begin wearing masks to arguments."

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