Misquoting Founders Is a Political Epidemic

You can't believe all you read online

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 7, 2011 3:47 PM CDT

(Newser) – Between the current interest in America’s founders and a “willingness to believe” the Internet, political misquotes are flying these days, writes David A. Fahrenthold in the Washington Post. A look over the past two years of C-SPAN and the Congressional Record shows that politicians—including congressmen, senators, and the president—have wrongly quoted the founding fathers at least 30 times.

Republicans have often misquoted the founders to suggest they’d back current conservative thinking. But “even if the founders didn’t say those things, would they have agreed with them?” It depends, historians say. Thomas Jefferson preferred small government—but George Washington called for a stronger federal government. Misquoting Washington is “a betrayal of who he was,” says a historian. Check out some of the misquotes at left. Or read about Sarah Palin's recent Paul Revere flap.

Thomas Jefferson gets words put in his mouth a lot.   (Getty Images)
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Thomas Jefferson wrote that the government is best that governs least. - Sen. Rand Paul, misquoting Jefferson

Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. - Rep. Louie Gohmert,
misquoting Washington

As Jefferson said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. - Rep. Virginia Foxx (among others), misquoting Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that each of us are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. - President Obama,
forgetting 'by their Creator'

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