DeSantis Is Far From The First To Quote Something Churchill Never Said

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Ron DeSantis ended his presidential campaign Sunday but promised to keep fighting “woke ideology” as Florida’s governor. To illustrate that his failure was not his last chapter, DeSantis quoted the prime minister who led the British to victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

“Winston Churchill once remarked that success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

But he never said that, according to the International Churchill Society.

It was a final misstep in a campaign criticized for being plagued by them. DeSantis is not alone in using a fake Churchill quote. Experts coined the phrase “Churchillian drift” to describe someone erroneously citing the former British prime minister to add intellectual weight to what they were saying. It’s been happening for decades but has exploded in recent years as internet users crave short, witty phrases and burnish them by slapping on Churchill’s name.

“The reason why Churchill is so often misquoted is that the person quoting him is attempting to evoke his legacy of resilience, optimism and perseverance,” International Churchill Society Executive Director Justin Reash told The Washington Post in an email.

Churchill is one of the most misquoted figures, in the company of George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain – all sources of sharp, quotable phrases whether they said or wrote them.

“Winston Churchill has become something of the king of fake quotes – a phenomenon the Internet has pushed to the extreme,” according to the Churchill Project at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

There are good reasons for that, Reash told The Post. His life spanned from the Victorian era to the Atomic Age, and he was front and center for most of it. According to Reash, he spoke or wrote more than 40 million words and, with his sharp wit and expansive mind, was eminently quotable.

And yet, people often quote things he never said.

The most common misquote is the one DeSantis used, along with, “If you’re going through [pergatory], keep going,” Reash said.

In 2018, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) shared a photo of Churchill to his private Twitter account that included the quote, “The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists,” and the words “CHURCHILL ON THE LEFTWING.” Abbott added, “Some insights are timeless,” the Associated Press reported.

After getting criticized online, Abbott deleted the tweet but defended the meaning behind it, saying that “it was irrelevant to me who may or may not have said that in the past.”

In December 2022, as news broke that then Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.) was being accused of wide-ranging misconduct, his lawyer released a statement denouncing what he described as an attempt to “smear his good name with these defamatory allegations.” The lawyer ended with a quote to make his point.

“As Winston Churchill famously stated, ‘You have enemies? Good. It means that you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’”

Except that Churchill never said that, either.

That won’t stop people, from anonymous internet users to name-brand politicians, from quoting him anyway.

“All types of people, public figures included, look to Churchill’s example of legendary leadership in unimaginable adversity for inspiration,” Reash said. “That is why he is quoted so often. He inspired people in his time, and he continues to inspire people around the world today.”

(c) 2024 , The Washington Post · Jonathan Edwards 


    • You are excusing lying? Exposing such is precisely what news organizations should be doing, no matter how badly you are upset by your favorite pols being exposed.


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