"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged." — President Abraham Lincoln.
If you know anything about Abraham Lincoln, you might find it difficult to believe he said such a thing. You might suspect the quote is a hoax.
And you'd be right.
From Editor and Publisher, courtesy of my favourite researcher:
The drive by some political and military figures -- and pundits -- to paint those who oppose the war in Iraq as traitors or at least not supporting the troops has hit another low, with a Washington Times columnist trumpeting an incendiary quote from Abraham Lincoln shown to be a fabrication last year.
Frank Gaffney, Jr. opened his latest column with this: "Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged." — President Abraham Lincoln.
He continues: "It is, of course, unimaginable that the penalties proposed by one of our most admired presidents for the crime of dividing America in the face of the enemy would be contemplated — let alone applied — today. Still, as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate engage in interminable debate about resolutions whose effects can only be to 'damage morale and undermine the military' while emboldening our enemies, it is time to reflect on what constitutes inappropriate behavior in time of war."
One problem: Lincoln never said it.
Brooks Jackson at FactCheck.org, the Annenberg Public Policy Center group, studied the sudden appearance of the quote last August. Why? He had found that his Web search "brought up more than 18,000 references to it."
He reported: "Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime 'are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.'
"Republican candidate Diana Irey used the 'quote' recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.
"But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln's. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor [at the magazine Insight] for the mistake and the failure to correct it. We also note other serious historical errors in the Waller article containing the bogus quote."
Jackson later provided this update: "Candidate Irey retracted the quote and apologized hours after this article appeared."
Waller wrote to Jackson concerning the 2003 article: "Oddly, you are the first to question me about this. I'm surprised it has been repeated as often as you say. My editors at the time didn't think it was necessary to run a correction in the following issue of the magazine, and to my knowledge we received no public comment."
Gaffney is a regular columnist at the Washington Times.
UPDATE: As of Thursday night, The Washington Times had neither removed the quote from the Gaffney column nor run a correction.
On Thursday, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) cited the quote on the floor of the House during the debate on the Iraq war "surge."
Well, we can't let little things like truth and accuracy get in the way of our witchhunt, can we?
And PS, I didn't say I was surprised. It's just worth noting. I also think it's worth spreading the word.