Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor issued statements on Wednesday contradicting a report that Gorsuch won’t comply with a request to wear a mask, despite Sotomayor being at greater risk of serious illness if she contracts COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice Roberts said he “did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”
NPR first reported Tuesday that Roberts had asked his colleagues on the court to wear a mask, at least partially out of respect for Sotomayor, who has had diabetes since childhood. As the highly transmissible omicron variant continues to spread, Gorsuch, a staunch conservative, has refused to wear a mask — despite sitting right next to Sotomayor on the bench. Because of Gorsuch’s refusal to mask up, Sotomayor has been forced to call in for weekly conferences instead of attending in person, according to NPR.
On Wednesday, before Roberts issued his denial, Gorsuch and Sotomayor released a joint statement about the controversy that pushed back on the report.
“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.”
It’s worth noting that NPR’s report never said that Sotomayor asked Gorsuch to wear a mask. Rather, NPR reported that it was Roberts who asked all colleagues to mask up — which Roberts subsequently denied.
While the statement says the two justices are “warm colleagues and friends,” it does not address the crux of the report: that Gorsuch refuses to wear a mask on the bench as a highly contagious virus continues to spread.
This story has been updated throughout to reflect Roberts’ statement.