In October 2020, as the U.S. Senate began confirmation hearings for U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court opening created after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, social media users began circulating a bit of text purportedly reproducing Trump's explanation to reporters about why he had chosen Barrett:
The gist of this supposed Trumpian word salad was, "It's important that the Supreme Court have a good image, so I nominated Amy Coney Barrett because she's a good-looking woman":
"Well, you know you have to look at what we have said in the court. I think, I think it’s important that they have a good image, they need a terrific image, so people will see they can believe me. I’m not saying any names, but you look at those people, and they are not that nice, not nice to look at, not at all. I think Amy is much, much better looking than the women we have had. I think people know this, they know. If people are more attractive, they get a fantastic amount of respect, and we need to have that now. That I can tell you."
However, we found no source outside of this meme itself that reported or documented Trump's having said any such thing. Neither these words nor anything like them appeared in any news stories, in any transcripts of Trump's speeches or press events, or in his Twitter feed (including since-deleted tweets).
When Trump announced Barrett as his nominee on September 26, 2020, he referenced her academic credentials, legal experience, and qualifications, but he said nothing about her physical appearance or the need for the court to project a "good image":
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. I stand before you today to fulfill one of my highest and most important duties under the United States Constitution: the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice. (Applause.) This is my third such nomination after Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh. And it is a very proud moment indeed.
Over the past week, our nation has mourned the loss of a true American legend. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a legal giant and a pioneer for women. Her extraordinary life and legacy will inspire Americans for generations to come.
Now we gather in the Rose Garden to continue our never-ending task of ensuring equal justice and preserving the impartial rule of law.
Today, it is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution: Judge Amy Coney Barrett. (Applause.)
We’re also joined by Amy’s husband, Jesse — thank you, Jesse, very much — and their seven beautiful children. Congratulations to you all. A very special day.
With us as well are the First Lady — thank you, First Lady — (applause) — along with Vice President Mike Pence and his amazing wife, Karen. Thank you very much, Mike. (Applause.)
Judge Barrett is a graduate of Rhodes College and the University of Notre Dame Law School. At Notre Dame, she earned a full academic scholarship, served as the Executive Editor of the Law Review, graduated first in her class, and received the law school’s award for the best record of scholarship and achievement.
Upon graduation, she became a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Amy then received one of the highest honors a young lawyer could have, serving as a clerk on the Supreme Court for Justice Antonin Scalia. A highly — (applause) — a very highly respected law professor at Notre Dame wrote to Justice Scalia with a one-sentence recommendation: “Amy Coney is the best student I ever had.” That’s pretty good. (Laughter.) Justice Scalia hired her shortly thereafter.
And we are honored to have his wonderful wife, Maureen — where is Maureen? Maureen Scalia — with us today. (Applause.) Thank you. And our great Secretary of Labor, thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. (Applause.) Very good genes in that family, I will say. Very good genes.
Before joining the bench, Judge Barrett spent 15 years as a Professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. She was renowned for her scholarship, celebrated by her colleagues, and beloved by her students. Three times, she was selected at Notre Dame, Distinguished Professor of the Year.
When I nominated Judge Barrett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017, every law clerk from her time at the Supreme Court endorsed her and endorsed her nomination, writing, quote, “We are Democrats, Republicans, and independents…yet we write to support the nomination of Professor Barrett to be a Circuit Judge…Professor Barrett is a woman of remarkable intellect and character. She is eminently qualified for the job.”
And I can tell you, I did that too. I looked and I studied, and you are very eminently qualified for this job. You are going to be fantastic. Thank you. (Applause.) Really fantastic.
The entire Notre Dame Law facility and faculty, everybody — everybody at that school also — we got so many letters — also wrote letters of support of Amy’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit. They wrote, in effect: “Despite our differences, we unanimously agree that our constitutional system depends upon an independent judiciary staffed by talented people devoted to the fair and impartial administration of the rule of law. And we unanimously agree that Amy is such a person.”
For the last three years, Judge Barrett has served with immense distinction on the federal bench. Amy is more than a stellar scholar and judge; she is also a profoundly devoted mother. Her family is a core part of who Amy is. She opened her home and her heart, and adopted two beautiful children from Haiti. Her incredible bond with her youngest child, a son with Down Syndrome, is a true inspiration.
If confirmed, Justice Barrett will make history as the first mother of school-aged children ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s good. (Applause.)
To her children Emma, Vivian, Tess, John Peter, Liam, Juliet, and Benjamin, thank you for sharing your incredible mom with our country. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Amy Coney Barrett will decide cases based on the text of the Constitution as written. As Amy has said, “Being a judge takes courage. You are not there to decide cases as you may prefer. You are there to do your duty and to follow the law wherever it may take you.” That is exactly what Judge Barrett will do on the U.S. Supreme Court.
I want to thank the members of the Senate. We have so many of them here today. Thank you very much. I see you in the audience, and you’re so proud. But I want to thank you for your commitment and to providing a fair and timely hearing. I know it will be that.
Judge Barrett was confirmed to the Circuit Court three years ago by a bipartisan vote. Her qualifications are unsurpassed — unsurpassed — and her record is beyond reproach. This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation. It should be very easy. Good luck. (Laughter.) It’s going to be very quick. I’m sure it’ll be extremely non-controversial. We said that the last time, didn’t we? Well, thank you all very much, and thank you for being here. That’s really great. Thank you. (Applause.)
I further urge all members of the other side of the aisle to provide Judge Barrett with the respectful and dignified hearing that she deserves and, frankly, that our country deserves. I urge lawmakers and members of the media to refrain from personal or partisan attacks.
And the stakes for our country are incredibly high. Rulings that the Supreme Court will issue in the coming years will decide the survival of our Second Amendment, our religious liberty, our public safety, and so much more.
To maintain security, liberty, and prosperity, we must preserve our priceless heritage of a nation of laws, and there is no one better to do that than Amy Coney Barrett.
Law and order is the foundation of the American system of justice. No matter the issue, no matter the case before her, I am supremely confident that Judge Barrett will issue rulings based solely upon a fair reading of the law. She will defend the sacred principle of equal justice for citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed.
Congratulations again to Judge Barrett. I know that you will make our country very, very proud.