Anyone who knows anything about the Internet knows that you should probably double check before sharing a meme with a quotation. That Marilyn Monroe quip? Probably not one of her missives. That platitude from Gandhi? I doubt he said it. It’s become the golden rule of responsible social sharing: fact check yourself before you wreck yourself.
We all make mistakes in this arena now and then, but such is life in the digital era. But there’s a difference between a meme you’re not supposed to think much about and a book that’s supposed to have a longer shelf life. If you’re writing a book defending your personal philosophy, incorrect attribution or inaccurate phrasing is a little less forgivable. But flat-out making up quotations to support your argument? That takes a special kind of liar.
Which brings us to Mike Huckabee.
In his 1998 book Kids Who Kill, Huckabee and his evangelical co-author George Grant straight-up manufacture quotations from leaders of the past in order to prop up their extremist views of America as an inherently Christian nation.
In many cases, the only verification of the existence of these quotations comes from (drumroll please) Huckabee’s prior books. Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski and Mark Arce report:
The book links that shooting to the decline in America’s moral culture. The quotes, from figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, are often used to reinforce Huckabee’s moral viewpoint.
“Thomas Jefferson asserted that the ‘chief purpose of government is to protect life. Abandon that and you have abandoned all,’” writes Huckabee in one part of the book on abortion.
However, according to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, “this quotation has not been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson.”
Another quote attributed to Jefferson read, “Any woodsman can tell you that in a broken and sundered nest, one can hardly expect to find more than a precious few whole eggs. So it is with the family.” Neither the Thomas Jefferson Foundation nor The Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Princeton University could verify the quote.
“I have searched our presidential files using woodsman, nest, and family as keywords and have not found this quote,” The Papers of Thomas Jefferson wrote to BuzzFeed News in a statement.
Huckabee’s cites “King’s Signet Book’s” in his book as the source for the quote, but a search for the source only turns up links to Huckabee’s book and another book, Revolution: Jesus’ Call to Change the World.
“It is impossible to rightly govern without God and the Bible,” reads a quote in Huckabee’s book attributed to George Washington.
“The quote is frequently misattributed to Washington, particularly in regards to his farewell address of 1796,” writes the National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.
Huckabee also attributed multiple quotes to founding father Patrick Henry that are unverifiable and sourced only to Huckabee’s book or a book cited by Huckabee.
Maybe he was getting revelations from Christian pseudo-historian David Barton.
Poor Huckabee. I guess it’s hard to make the case that the country is a historically Christian one when there’s no evidence to back it up.
To be fair, Huckabee’s not the first to do this. Dr. Ben Carson did it to justify his gun control stance. Gov. Scott Walker did it to promote small government. Sen. Rand Paul, on top of plagiarizing much of his book, did it for the same reasons as Walker.
But as embarrassing as this nonsense is, if leading GOP candidates can throw a hissy fit over videos that never existed and surge in the polls, it’s unlikely the voters who support them are going to be too upset about overactive imaginations and fictional quotations.