CNN's Brian Stelter continues to run cover for NPR’s mask report after three Supreme Court justices refute it

Justices deny NPR mask story

Fox’s Shannon Bream had called it false

CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter continued to run cover for NPR on Sunday, devoting only two minutes on his show to the now-infamous mask report that has been refuted by three Supreme Court justices. 

Last week, the left-wing anchor’s newsletter praised NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg as “incredibly well-sourced” after she reported Chief Justice John Roberts “in some form” asked the justices to wear masks because of the omicron surge since Justice Sonia Sotomayor has diabetes, and Justice Neil Gorsuch refused. 

Once all three justices involved in the story refuted it, Stelter pivoted to dismissing the rare public statements from Sotomayor, Gorsuch and Roberts contradicting the report as a mere “dustup” in his newsletter. The media had erupted over the report due to Gorsuch and Sotomayor’s ideological differences and the notion that Gorsuch was putting her in danger out of callousness.

CNN’s Brian Stelter continued to run cover for NPR on Sunday.

On Sunday’s edition of Stelter’s struggling program “Reliable Sources,” the NPR debacle was given short shrift.

Stelter spent the first 20 minutes of the show bashing conservative and right-leaning media organizations, praising the government for rolling out a functioning website that offers free COVID tests, downplaying recent gaffes by President Biden by declaring that Americans are tuning them out, dismissing rising crime rates around the nation, and speaking to CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin for a segment about Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, before finding time for the NPR debacle. 

Stelter opened the brief segment by noting NPR “is facing a firestorm” by “not backing down” before framing the controversy in favorable terms for the liberal outlet.

NPR’s chief legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg has stood by a report that received unprecedented blowback from three Supreme Court justices.
(Wanyu Zhang/NPR)

“Gorsuch and Sotomayor jointly put out a statement denying any tensions, but that’s not what was reported. Then Roberts released a statement refuting Totenberg’s claim saying, ‘I did not request Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask,’ so NPR’s public editor chimed in saying Totenberg merits a clarification, not a correction. Totenberg, though, stands by the reporting. So does NPR,” Stelter said before further downplaying the refuted report, claiming it “hinges on one sentence.”

“This is about one word, the word ‘ask,’ and whether Roberts asked everyone to wear masks or whether he, I don’t know, I guess he could have suggested they wear masks,” Stelter said to Toobin.

Toobin then scolded Gorsuch for not wearing one, praised Totenberg as a “terrifically good, reliable reporter,” and condemned the Supreme Court for not having an official policy on masks. That was the last mention of the story. 

Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor issued a joint statement disputing an NPR story last week. 

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