Ted Nugent Posts Fake Headline, Claim About Sotomayor’s Health


SciCheck Digest

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who as a diabetic is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, has participated remotely in recent Supreme Court arguments. But Ted Nugent posted a bogus headline on Facebook — using a CNBC logo and byline — with the unfounded claim that Sotomayor tested positive for the disease. A CNBC spokesperson said the outlet didn’t publish it.

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As we’ve written, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is diabetic and therefore at a higher risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19, has participated remotely in recent oral court arguments. 

An NPR report said Sotomayor worked from her chambers because of Justice Neil Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a face mask, even after Chief Justice John Roberts allegedly asked the other justices to mask up for the sake of Sotomayor. 

The NPR report was republished in several publications, including CNBC and USA Today.

On Jan. 18, the same day those reports were published, Ted Nugent — a rock musician and conservative activist with a history of sharing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines — posted an image of a fake CNBC headline on Facebook claiming that Sotomayor tested positive for COVID-19. The post has received more than 11,000 likes and shares.

“SUPREME COURT JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 DESPITE TRIPLE VACCINATION, DILIGENT MASKING AND WORKING FROM HOME,” read the fabricated headline, which was created to look like a screenshot from a CNBC article.

Nugent’s post includes a CNBC logo and the byline of reporter Kevin Breuninger.

But CNBC told us the headline in the Facebook post is fake. 

CNBC.com has not published an article with that headline,” Erin Kitzie, a CNBC spokesperson, told us in an email. 

We also could find no media reports or records of Sotomayor testing positive for COVID-19. 

We reached out to the Supreme Court public information office for clarification on Sotomayor’s health, but did not hear back. The court issued a press release when Justice Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for COVID-19 in October.

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.


Breuninger, Kevin. “Supreme Court’s Gorsuch refused to wear mask despite request over Sotomayor’s Covid concerns, report says.” CNBC. 18 Jan 2022.

Erin Kitzie, Public relations director, CNBC. Email to FactCheck.org. 20 Jan 2022. 

Jones, Brea. “Social Media Posts Continue to Misidentify Justice Sotomayor in Dinner Photo.” FactCheck.org. 13 Jan 2022. 

Kevin Breuninger” webpage. CNBC. Accessed 20 Jan 2022. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19. “People With Certain Medical Conditions.” 14 Dec 2021. 

Nakamura, Amy. “Report: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch refuses to wear mask in the courtroom, despite request from Roberts.” USA Today. 18 Jan 2022. 

Ninh, Nicole (@nicninh). “JUST IN #SCOTUS Statement from Justices Sotomayor & Gorsuch on masks.” Twitter. 19 Jan 2022.

Spencer, Saranac Hale. “Social Media Posts Mislead on COVID-19 Vaccines, Deaths in Afghanistan.” 10 Sep 2021.

Supreme Court of the United States. Press release. 1 Oct 2021.

Totenberg, Nina. “Gorsuch didn’t mask despite Sotomayor’s COVID worries, leading her to telework.” NPR. 18 Jan 2022. 

United States v. National Federation of Independent Business, Et Al. No. 21A244. Supreme Court of the U.S. 07 Jan 2022.   

Vogue, Ariane de. “Gorsuch declines to wear mask, as bench-mate Sotomayor works from her office.” CNN. 19 Jan 2022.

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