Ethics & Public Policy Center

Amy Coney Barrett Said Nice Things About Her Kids. Liberals Heard Racism.

Published in The Washington Post on October 16, 2020

Since Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, a great deal of media coverage has focused on her family. She and her husband, Jesse Barrett, have seven children — two of whom, Vivian and John Peter, were adopted from Haiti. Benjamin, their youngest, has Down syndrome, and most of her children were present at her confirmation hearings.

Seeing her family in the spotlight has prompted indignation from liberals. Several pundits have argued that Republicans were using Barrett’s motherhood as a “smokescreen” — in the words of author Anand Giridharadas — to distract from her views, or as a public-relations tool. Talk of her motherhood is “meant to defuse criticisms of Barrett by making the case that, as a mom, she simply wouldn’t have the heart to do some of the things liberals are afraid of, like voting to overturn the Affordable Care Act,” asserted a Vox writer — while also making critics seem “anti-child, anti-family, and anti-women.”

These complaints are easily rebutted by noting that the confirmation debate has focused largely on her legal record. Indeed, nearly every question Barrett received from Republicans related to her judicial philosophy and her qualifications, not her family. But beyond the talk of smokescreens and P.R., there was a far less pleasant strand of liberal commentary: It involved strained interpretations of why Barrett adopted children, and how she speaks of them — implying that she was racist, and perhaps ableist. These comments did not only represent armchair psychoanalysis at its worst; they also showed how easy it is for partisanship to trump basic decency.

Click here to read the rest of this piece at the Washington Post’s website.

Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer at the National Review and a Visiting Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. 

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