1. St. Patrick’s Day came to DC early this year, as the prime minister (or taoiseach) of Ireland, Enda Kenny, paid a visit to the United States.
2. During a lunch on Capitol Hill to commemorate the holiday, President Donald Trump read aloud what he said was a favorite Irish proverb of his.
“As we stand together with our Irish friends, I am reminded of that proverb, and this is a good one, this one I like — I’ve heard it for many, many years and I love it,” Trump said to preface the following: “Always remember to forget the friends who’ve proved untrue, but never forget to remember those who’ve stuck by you.”
3. But very quickly people began to realize something was…off.
5. Some deft googling led Twitter user @colz to conclude that the lines actually came from a poem posted online called “Remember to Forget.”
6. That poem was written by this guy, Albashir Adam Alhassan, a manager at a bank in Nigeria, over 10 years ago, he says.
The poem, Alhassan said when reached by BuzzFeed News on Facebook Messenger, first appeared online and since then has been read on local radio and published in his own book of poems. But that doesn’t explain how it got to the president — a fact that people around him have noticed and started teasing him about.
“It’s actually strange,” he said. “I’m wondering what must have made him relate it to Ireland even if he loves the lines.”
7. But not everyone is sure that Alhassan wrote the entirety of the poem that has been fingered as the origin of Trump’s words.
Alhassan denies any plagiarism, however. “I wrote all my poems without anyone’s help,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I’m surprised how the plagiarism detector works. But I wrote that poem when I had no access to the internet on my phone in Nigeria. I have sent for the scrapbook to be brought out in my childhood home. That’s where I wrote all my poems before ever knowing I can someday post them on the internet.”
8. The plot thickens, though: A version of the second stanza of the poem, the part that Trump quoted, appears on a list of “Irish proverbs” on at least one website.
Quote aggregation sites on the internet aren’t exactly known for their accuracy, but it does make the case that the words are at least Irish. But a version of the line can be found in multiple other quote books dating back to — at the oldest — 1936.
9. The White House has so far not responded to a BuzzFeed News request for comment on just how the president came across the lines he read out on Thursday.
The White House provided a statement through a spokesperson to The Hill that said the quote was “originally supplied in an email on March 8 by the State Department via [the National Security Council] as building blocks in advance of this event. These building blocks were supplied in the context of the Shamrock Ceremony and were ultimately used in the prepared remarks for the luncheon.”
The authenticity of the Irish proverb President Trump quoted is under debate. A previous version of this article definitively said that it was written by Albashir Adam Alhassan.
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