Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 1998 book Kids Who Kill is full of spurious quotations from leading American political figures, mostly the country’s founding fathers.
A number of the quotations, such as those from Washington and Jefferson, have been routinely debunked by libraries of the past presidents but still regularly find their way into books from conservative figures. Other quotes, debunked by prominent historians, seem to be used for the first time in the book.
The book was co-written with evangelical author George Grant in response to a mass shooting in Arkansas. 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.
Huckabee isn’t the first Republican presidential to attribute fake quotes to America’s founders. Ben Carson, Rand Paul, and former candidate Scott Walker have all done so.
“That book was co-authored, and I’m not sure which one wrote those, but we appreciate you reading the book,” a Huckabee spokesman said.
3. “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.
5. “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.
“The manners of a gentleman are an outgrowth of his due respect for the life and integrity of others; likewise a breach of courtesy is emblematic not so much of barbarism as of utter and complete self-absorption. A rude man is but a callous egotist,” reads one quote attributed to Henry. The only source available for this is Huckabee’s book. The quote is not cited in the book.
Another quote attributed to Henry, “For good or for ill, the estate of the family will most assuredly predetermine the estate of all of the rest of the culture,” could again only be sourced back to Huckabee.
One prominent historian, Baylor professor Thomas S. Kidd, who authored Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots, told BuzzFeed News he had not seen the quotes before.
“Those are new ones to me. Like you, I cannot find any hits on them except for the Huckabee book,” Kidd told BuzzFeed News.
Another quote attributed to Henry in Huckabee’s book can also be found in a different book from Huckabee’s co-author, but in that book it’s attributed to Pope Leo XIII. Huckabee’s book reads: “Patrick Henry argued, ‘The contention that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.’”
7. Quotes attributed to Abraham Lincoln are also somewhat dubious. One is most likely fake, another appears to be a misquote.
“The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next,” reads on quote attributed to Lincoln. The quote is untraceable to Lincoln and is often listed as an unconfirmed quote.
“It looks like that quote began appearing in various evangelical books attributing it to Lincoln at some point in the 1990s, but beyond that I don’t know its origins,” Lincoln scholar and Dickinson College professor Matthew Pinsker. “It’s certainly not Lincoln, or to be precise, there’s no evidence that it comes from any of Lincoln’s writings and no recollected account that I know of which even claims this line as his.”
Another quote attributed to Lincoln in the book (“We are indeed, the almost chosen people”) seems to be a slight misread of an address Lincoln gave to the New Jersey legislature in February of 1861, where he is quoted by the New York Times as saying, “I shall be most happy in lead if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, as the chosen instrument, also in the hands of the almighty, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.”
Huckabee and his co-author also attributed a quote to Samuel Adams (“without civility, there can be no society,”) that, upon searching, could only be found in his book and a 1999 column in a South Carolina newspaper written by a wedding consultant.
Finally, a quote attributed to founding father Gouverneur Morris is not only a fake quote but a misattribution of a fake quote.
“The Constitution is not an instrument for government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—lest it come to dominate our lives and interests,” read the quote attributed to Morris. This quote is fake as noted by prominent historians, and is usually attributed to Patrick Henry.
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