The claim: Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s yearbook quote is 'Make the Handmaid’s Tale real'
In the run-up to President Donald Trump nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, partisan accusations and memes spread across the internet.
One tweet mocked perceived liberal hyperbole about Barrett’s record, purporting to show a yearbook quote of the judge reading, “Make the Handmaid’s Tale real.”
The image, also shared to Instagram, mocks reports that inaccurately allege Barrett is a member of a group that inspired Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, as well as a persistent left-of-center critique that draws parallels between Barrett’s ideology and those presented in “A Handmaid’s Tale.”
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram account that reposted the tweet but was unable to contact the original poster.
The image is clearly doctored; Barrett’s photo in the graphic, for one, is her official headshot in 2018 as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The picture also has clear markings showing the text and background have been shoddily photoshopped.
Further, USA TODAY could find no public evidence of Barrett saying those words.
Barrett and 'A Handmaid’s Tale' accusations
Since her rise to prominence as a judge in 2017, Barrett has been accused by left-leaning critics of being too conservative or religious.
During Barrett's confirmation hearing, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., spoke about Barrett’s religious views saying, “The dogma lives loudly within you,” the quote became a rallying cry for religious conservatives who saw Democrats’ line of criticism as discriminatory.
After it became clear that Barrett was the front-runner to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, many accused her of being a religious extremist, at times inaccurately portraying her views.
Some of these accusations equated Barrett’s views to those expressed in Margaret Atwood's1985 novel “A Handmaid’s Tale,” a contention that many on the right have denounced and satirized.
“A Handmaid’s Tale” envisions a dystopian future in which women are property of a totalitarian state that uses them as sexual slaves. The novel was adapted into a popular Hulu series of the same name and has since become a cultural marker.
The show’s iconic red robe and white bonnet costume has often been used by activists to protest against or signal anxiety about perceived efforts to curtail women’s rights.
Notable instances of “Handmaid’s Tale”-inspired protest include those during the the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the passing of strict abortion laws in states like Alabama, Georgia and Ohio.
Atwood has said that her novel was in part inspired by “a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect, which calls the women handmaids.” Some took that to mean the group People of Praise, with which Barrett has been associated.
However, because Atwood’s notes on the novel are inaccessible at the University of Toronto, there is no way to definitely determine which charismatic Catholic groups were most influential on Atwood’s thinking, she conceded to both ABC News and Politico.
People of Praise, which had already drawn attention for its conservative views during Barrett’s 2017 appeals court confirmation hearing, appears to be mistaken for People of Hope, another Catholic charismatic group.
Media inaccuracies spread misinformation
The Atlantic's Caitlin Flanagan derided Newsweek's article as questionable journalism, citing it as a part of a larger trend of media and left-of-center critics attacking Barrett's faith rather than her jurisprudence.
Vox's Constance Grady wrote that liberals "linked Barrett to 'The Handmaid’s Tale' because 'The Handmaid’s Tale' is now our culture’s most potent symbol for the idea of a world in which women’s bodies are not their own."
Conservatives and others have pushed back, poking fun at the connection drawn between Barrett and Atwood's novel.
Our ruling: Satire
We rate this claim SATIRE. The posts in questions are emblematic of conservative satire of both media practices online and alleged liberal panic over Judge Amy Coney Barrett's religious and jurisprudential views. They are also, however, part of a larger conversation over Barrett's faith and her approach to deciding cases. Prominent in that conversation is "A Handmaid's Tale," which has become a cultural analogy for the anxieties some progressives feel toward Barrett and other cultural conservatives, particularly on the issue of women's and reproductive rights.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, Sept. 26, 2020, Amy Coney Barrett: Talented judge, popular professor brings solid conservative credentials
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Post satirizes Amy Coney Barrett with 'yearbook' photo