Fact Check

Is Amy Coney Barrett a Rhodes Scholar?

A "Rhodes Scholar" is someone who received a prestigious scholarship, not someone who attended Rhodes College.

Published Oct. 2, 2020

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a Rhodes Scholar.

On Oct. 1, 2020, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a press conference that Judge Amy Coney Barrett, U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, was a Rhodes Scholar.

McEnany said:

"Judge Barrett is extremely well qualified. She graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame Law School, where she received the Hoynes Prize for achieving the best record in scholarship. And she also is a Rhodes Scholar."

Barrett, however, is not a Rhodes Scholar.

A Rhodes Scholar is someone who has received a Rhodes Scholarship — one of the oldest international scholarship programs — to attend Oxford University in England.

Oxford writes:

"The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest (first awarded in 1902) and perhaps most prestigious international scholarship programme, enabling outstanding young people from around the world to study at the University of Oxford."

But Barrett was not a recipient of this scholarship.

What McEnany was referring to during the press conference was that Barrett had attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. While Barrett was certainly a Rhodes College student, this does not make her a Rhodes Scholar.

McEnany was quickly corrected during the press conference, and she conceded that Barrett had attended Rhodes College, saying it was "my bad" to refer to her as a Rhodes scholar.

This was not the only time, however, that Barrett has been falsely referred to as a Rhodes scholar. Fox News also falsely claimed that Barrett was the recipient of this prestigious scholarship:

A brief biography of Barrett published on the website of Notre Dame Law School lists a number of her accomplishments.

Barrett earned her Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree and graduated summa cum laude, a Latin term meaning "with the highest distinction" that is typically used to refer to someone who graduated near the top of their class. While this biography does mention that Barrett earned a B.A. in English literature and graduated magna cum laude ("with great distinction") from Rhodes College, it does not say that she was a "Rhodes Scholar."  


Notre Dame Law.   "Hon. Amy Coney Barrett."     Retrieved 2 October 2020.

Roth, Madeline.   "'My Bad': White House Press Secretary Corrected in Real Time as She Claims Amy Coney Barrett is Rhodes Scholar."     Independent.   2 October 2020.

Watts, Micaela.   "The White House Mixed Up Rhodes College and Rhodes Scholar. Then, Came the Puns."     Commercial Appeal.   1 October 2020.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.