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Amy Coney Barrett interview doesn’t prove she opposed election year nominations

October 13, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the current nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, told CBS News in an interview in 2016 that election year nominations are inappropriate and she does not support nominations that would “dramatically flip the balance of power on the Court.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. Social media users are sharing a clip in which Barrett lays out reasons why people may oppose an election year nomination. However, in the full interview, she says she doesn’t think precedent establishes a rule that favors either side of the argument.

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THE FACTS: This week, as Senate confirmation hearings began to consider Barrett’s nomination, Twitter users shared a video from 2016 to argue she was a hypocrite for seeking the seat.

“In 2016, Amy Coney Barrett said that any nomination in an election year would be completely inappropriate and she does not support nominations that would ‘dramatically flip the balance of power on the Court,’” read one tweet shared more than 12,000 times.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar also shared the video on Twitter, writing, “Let’s elevate this and get a Dem Senator to play this for her in today’s hearing. The hypocrisy we are seeing is astounding.”

The 52-second clip, which has racked up more than 6 million views on Twitter, is an excerpt of a longer interview Barrett did with CBS in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in early 2016.

In the clip, Barrett describes how an argument could be made against an election-year nomination that would dramatically change the makeup of the court. She explains how the nomination of Justice Anthony Kennedy -- the one other modern election-year nomination to the Supreme Court -- could be viewed as different, because the vacancy arose the year before and because Kennedy was a moderate Republican replacing another moderate Republican.

However, in the full interview, it becomes clear Barrett does not take a side on whether or not it’s right to nominate a Supreme Court justice in an election year. Twice in the six-minute conversation, she says she does not think either side of the debate can claim there’s a rule on the matter.

“I think, in sum, the president has the power to nominate, and the Senate has the power to act or not, and I don’t think either one of them can claim that there’s a rule governing one way or the other,” Barrett says.

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The interview clip came up during Barrett’s second day of confirmation hearings on Tuesday, when Democratic Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy claimed Barrett had laid out a case for blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination in 2016.

“Senator Leahy, I want to be very clear,” Barrett responded. “I think that’s not quite what I said in the interview. It was an interview that I gave shortly after Justice Scalia’s death, and at that time both sides of the aisle were arguing that precedent supported their decision. And I said while I had not done the research myself, my understanding of the statistics was that neither side could claim precedent, that it was a decision that was the political branch’s to make. And I didn’t say which way they should go. I simply said it was the Senate’s call. I didn’t advocate, or publicly support, the blockade of Judge Garland’s nomination, as you’re suggesting.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536