CLAIM: Photo shows Democratic U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island flouting social distancing measures by huddling without face masks during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
THE FACTS: In fact, this Associated Press photo dates back to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2018, long before the coronavirus pandemic began.
As Barrett began her third day of Senate confirmation hearings on Wednesday, a photo of three Democratic senators was circulating online along with accusations that the senators flouted social distancing measures. The photo shows Booker, Blumenthal and Whitehouse huddling close together at Blumenthal’s desk, without any face masks. “Is this an Amy Coney Barrett SCOTUS nominee Senate Hearing?” read one tweet posted on Tuesday. “Or a political teams coaches strategy huddle on how to beat what they perceive to be an opponent?” Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, also shared the photo on his Twitter account on Wednesday, pointing out the absence of masks. He later clarified the photo was taken in 2018.
A reverse-image search proves this photo was not taken at Barrett’s confirmation hearings. Instead, it’s an AP photo from Sept. 4, 2018, when senators in the Judiciary Committee were vetting Kavanaugh. Booker, Blumenthal and Whitehouse have all advocated for wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to advise that people wear face coverings in public settings and when social distancing is not possible.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson reported from Seattle.