Can Candidates Please Stop Misquoting The Founding Fathers? It’s Embarrassing


If there's one thing politicians love, it's quoting the founding fathers. Most of the time, they fail miserably at it. In the latest episode of "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver tackled this issue, and the results are painfully hilarious and sad.

"Quotations, the karaoke of ideas," Oliver said. "Quotations make us sound smart, that's why politicians love throwing them around."

He starts by calling out Ben Carson first for his total #fail in a recent interview with Fox News: "Thomas Jefferson himself said, you know, 'Gun control works for the people, for law-abiding citizens, and it does nothing for the criminals, and all it does is put the people at risk," Carson said.

Unsurprisingly, Jefferson never said this. "To be fair, the gist of the quote does appear in Jefferson's handwriting, but it was apparently a paraphrased quote from Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria that Jefferson had copied into his journal," Oliver said.

"You cannot give people credit for saying things they copied into notebooks. Otherwise, my teenage self would have been able to claim credit for the Pythagorean theorem and most smashing pumpkins lyrics," he added.


Carson is far from being the first politician to misquote a founding father. "In this election cycle alone, Buzzfeed found that Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Rand Paul had all misquoted great American figures," Oliver said.

It's not exactly "unpresidential behavior," as Oliver put it. Obama, Reagan, and Bill Clinton have all flubbed Abraham Lincoln quotes.


"That is the problem with memes. If you have the right font and the right photo, any quote can seem real," Oliver said.

I decided to take him up on that challenge:

Universal History Archive/Getty Images/MTV

George Washington (1732-1799) c1796, lst president of the America.

You can check out the full video here.

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