Fact check: There is no Sen. Rob Donaldson, so posts of his speech about Barrett are fake

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The claim: Sen. Rob Donaldson made a speech before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing before the confirmation of Associate Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to a standing ovation. 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, recently confirmed as the high court’s newest member, sat before the Judiciary Committee for days as part of the confirmation process. During those hearings, senators from across the country took time to question Barrett and offer their thoughts. 

Several Facebook posts shared in the wake of those hearings include a long comment appearing to be a transcript of a speech made by a Sen. Rob Donaldson before the committee. 

But there’s no such person. 

Rob Donaldson, the New York City attorney who made the first post, told USA TODAY he had no idea people would take his hypothetical post so seriously. 

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No such senator

The U.S. Senate is composed of 100 senators, two for each state, serving six-year terms. 

None of them is named Rob Donaldson. There are three with the first name “Rob” or “Robert”: Robert P. Casey Jr., D-Pa.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Also of note is Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

There are no Donaldsons in the U.S. Senate. 

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Amy Coney Barrett protesters could be heard saying, "No confirmation until inauguration," while supporters said "we have the votes."

So who is Rob Donaldson? 

“I’m a lawyer,” Donaldson told USA TODAY via Facebook Messenger. “I care very deeply about the integrity of our government institutions and have always been very interested in SCOTUS history and rulings.”

When he wrote his thoughts on Barrett’s confirmation, he started the post with the phrase “Speech a Senator Rob Donaldson would have given in the Judiciary Committee hearing with Judge Barrett,” framing his musings as a hypothetical if he were ever in such a position. 

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12 in Washington.

Since then, the post has been copied and pasted widely, sometimes with comments like “I wish this guy was in the Senate…” or misidentifying Donaldson to be a sitting senator. 

His original post from Oct. 16 has been shared more than 1,000 times. 

“I am absolutely astonished by the attention it’s getting,” he said. “Even now I get daily batches of FB friend requests from total strangers and messages from people I’ve never heard of, saying how much they loved the piece and even urging me to run for office. I’m gobsmacked.”

Donaldson has added a note in an edit to the bottom of his original post, urging readers to not take the post out of context and check to make sure so-called senators are actually in office. 

He said the update was in an effort to “fact-check myself,” as the post spread.

“I guess I expected that anyone else who read it would know I’m not actually a senator. Maybe I overestimated the political knowledge of the broader electorate just a bit,” he said. “I hope it’s clear that this was not a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation or to deceive or masquerade.” 

Our ruling: False

Based on our research, the claim is FALSE, since there is no such person in the U.S. Senate. Attorney Rob Donaldson made a post hypothetically framing his thoughts on Barrett’s confirmation as if he were a sitting senator. Posts since then have misattributed his comments to a fictional senator with the same name. 

Our fact-check sources:

Reach reporter Mariah Timms at mtimms@tennessean.com or 615-259-8344 and on Twitter @MariahTimms

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