John Oliver Exposes Politicians Who Misquote the Founding Fathers

By Angela Hart

After studying the media, political speeches, and marketing techniques, I’ve found that facts and quotes are often misused to serve one’s own agenda. Sometimes people knowingly cite incorrect material, while more often than not, people don’t realize that they are using wrong information. When John Oliver addressed the use of political quotes being misattributed, I was overjoyed with the feeling that he was informing the public about a serious issue.

Near the end of the segment, Oliver said, “But that is the problem with memes: if you have the right font and the right photo, any quote can seem real.” This has become an epidemic on the Internet, where everyone with basic photo-shopping and editing skills can create memes for widespread circulation and do so without being monitored or corrected if their meme is misattributing information.

Oliver addressed Ben Carson’s latest misquote, “Thomas Jefferson, himself, said, you know, gun control works great for the people who are law-abiding citizens and it does nothing for the criminals and all it does is put the people at risk.” Oliver’s response was, “I’m pretty sure Jefferson did not say that in part because the term gun control wasn’t even used in its modern sense until the 1960’s. Now, now, 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.” Unless people take the extra time to verify information such as this, misquoting will continue to be a problem.

Carson was not the only offender in this sense, Oliver added, “BuzzFeed found that Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, and Rand Paul had all misquoted great American figures.” Oliver then showed clips of President Obama, President Reagan, and President Clinton, all misquoting Abraham Lincoln. If the president of the United States is using incorrect quotes, then his staff, speech writers, aides, and more people were involved, not knowing that the quote was misattributed. This could be due to lack of time, lack of research, or merely the fact that the quotes sounded correct and did not feel the need to verify. The thought process that if something is said enough times, it will become true seems to be the underlying theme of this ongoing issue.

In an attempt to hone in on the problem, Oliver created an online platform that utilizes quotes that may or may not sound correct. In his segment Oliver said, “For instance, did you know Alexander Hamilton once said, “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to win,” or that Marie Curie said, “After the show it’s the after party. And after the party it’s the hotel lobby.” I mean they didn’t say either of those things but admit it – there is some small part of you that now thinks they might have done.” With speculation being the main source for verification, it is important to understand the difference.

Now, people can go onto DEFINITELYREALQUOTES.COM which will generate random misquotes from historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson saying, “Yeah I pronounce it ‘pasketti’. Why? Is there another way?” Because, according to Oliver, “If quotes no longer have to be real, they should at least be fun.” People will go to the website address and hit the DELIVER ME SOME WISDOM button to be delivered some memes with humorous sayings. After going to the website myself, I found that the memes were well done and looked authentic, which further illustrates that anyone with editing skills can create real-looking images and cite whatever they want.