Politico’s Playbook thought it had scored quite the scoop this weekend when it reported that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had dined with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at DC restaurant Le Diplomate Friday night.
This sparked controversy because we are still pretending Supreme Court justices are impartial, non-partisan celestial beings. The Supreme Court was considering whether to uphold President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates, and you can’t have Democrats openly courting Sotomayor — even if she doesn’t need a free meal to remain a reliable liberal vote. Sotomayor had attended oral arguments virtually last week because of COVID-19 so it was strange that she’d have dined in a crowded restaurant.
It turned out, of course, that Pelosi and Schumer hadn’t invited Sotomayor out for bouillabaisse. Politico had confused Sotomayor for Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall, who isn’t even on the Supreme Court. Weinshall is a significant figure in her own right: she’s the chief operating officer of the New York Public Library, former vice chancellor at the City University of New York, and a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation. Her resume is quite impressive even if she’s never been Sonia Sotomayor.
Iris Weinshall is NOT Justice sotomayorpic.twitter.com/Y01NK5cn4s— Molly Jong-Fast (@Molly Jong-Fast) 1641689444
This is quite an epic fail that jeopardizes Politico’s otherwise outstanding journalistic reputation. Politico admitted in its Saturday morning correction that “our tipster got it wrong, but we should have double-checked.” Yes, I recall my journalism professors suggesting that we double-check or even single-check facts before printing them. Those were simpler times.
According to Schumer’s communications director, Justin Goodman, Politico never reached out to Schumer’s office for confirmation. Politico insists that its standards demand that editors verify information and don’t just print whatever tipsters claim they saw at DC restaurants.
We don’t know the tipster’s identity, but we hope it wasn’t Molly Edwards, a former aide to Paul Ryan. She live-tweeted in December that she’d “just witnessed Pete and Chasten [Buttigieg] get turned away from Le Dip because they did not have a reservation.” She claimed this was the “most thrilling thing that’s ever happened in this town. Electric!” Dear God, we hope she was kidding. Not even a Republican deserves a life that empty.
I just witnessed Pete and Chasten get turned away from Le Dip because they did not have a reservation.\n\nMost thrilling thing that\u2019s ever happened in this town. Electric!— Molly Edwards (@Molly Edwards) 1640047551
She later admitted she wasn’t sure that’s what happened, but it was “likely what happened.” In reality, the Buttigiegs were seated outside, in the non-COVID section. Politico did bother that time to contact Secretary Buttigieg’s office about this nonsense.
Within minutes we at Playbook were looped into this seemingly momentous news and were pretty excited ourselves to write about it today. Alas, our enthusiasm was dashed when we heard back from a Buttigieg spox who said there was nothing to it.
Playbook is barely more than a celebrity gossip rag, but Republicans eagerly leapt on the supposed Sotomayor “gotcha” like they were reading the Pentagon Papers. Former Rep. Doug Collins tweeted shortly before Politico’s retraction, "Justice Sotomayer [sic] was caught dining last night with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar. After the lies she spat out yesterday, how can she still rule impartial on this case. She needs to recuse herself NOW.”
The irony here is that Sotomayor is more likely to avoid apparent conflicts of interest than her conservative colleagues. Last September, Justice Amy Coney Barrett spoke at an event honoring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the University of Louisville's Mitch McConnell Center. She took the opportunity to insist the Supreme Court wasn’t filled with partisan hacks, because she never puts out the gaslight.
I\u2019m amazed that anyone believed that fake Sotomayor story. I mean, no Justice would ever go out in public galavanting around with their party\u2019s congressional leaders. The justices care far too much about avoiding even the mere perception that they are partisan actors.pic.twitter.com/ZncgML8zx7— Ian Millhiser (@Ian Millhiser) 1641697937
Not surprisingly, neither Collins nor any other conservative who publicly derided Sotomayor apologized for assuming the worst of her and being proven wrong. Sure, Politico stuck its tail between its legs, but social media has long proven that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” (No, Politico, that adage is not attributable to either Mark Twain or Sonia Sotomayor.)
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