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Volokh Conspiracy

Nina Totenberg Recounts RBG's Inadvertent "Leak" From This Term

"Of course, she hadn't told me anything about what the court had decided, only that I would find out in about 12 hours."


I encourage everyone to read this touching essay by Nina Totenberg about her dear friend, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here, I would like to flag a topic near and dear to me: Leaks. This leak though was inadvertent, and thankfully, innocuous.

I sometimes was asked how I could remain such good friends with RBG at the same time that I covered her as a reporter.

The answer was really pretty simple. If you are lucky enough to be friends with someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you both understand that you each have a job and that it has to be done professionally, and without favor.

I think the only time that she told me anything she wasn't supposed to was a mistake. After the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown, our house was about the only safe place Ruth could go, and so from mid-March until the end of July, she came to us for dinner every Saturday night, except a few where we brought dinner to her. Periodically, she would get this evil grin on her face, and say something on the order of "You are going to be a very busy person this week." Translation: lots of big opinions for you to cover.

Then, one Sunday I called her about something else, and she said, "How did you like that Electoral College decision?" I couldn't believe my ears. My friend was human. She had, like the rest of us in these COVID-19 times, gotten her days mixed up. She thought it was Monday. I paused and said, gently, "Ruth, it's Sunday, not Monday."

She gasped. She was horrified. Beside herself at her indiscretion. Of course, she hadn't told me anything about what the court had decided, only that I would find out in about 12 hours. But still, she was lashing herself for her mistake. I couldn't help but laugh.

I think this anecdote can be used to rebut the presumption that RBG was leaking to Joan Biskupic. If Ginsburg was so aghast at this minor indiscretion, would she tell Joan all the intimate details of conference? Again, we may find out if Joan continues to publish exposes this summer.

We also learn that RBG wore an RBG face mask:

And amid COVID-19 pandemic, she took to wearing a mask, with her tiny face printed on it.