CNN’s Fake Lincoln Quote [UPDATED]

Oh, hell, I might as well keep kicking CNN while it’s down in the hopes that it stays down and its rotting corpse frightens the mainstream news media into repenting, reforming, and practicing journalism again.

Around the same time that CNN was tracking down a harmless social media troll and threatening to ruin his life if he didn’t grovel for mercy and promise never to displease CNN again, the news network tweeted out a series of notable Americans for the Fourth of July. The above was one of them. It was fake history, and worse than that, it was fake history designed to cover for CNN’s own repeated refusal to allow the people to know the facts, using an appeal to the authority of a President who believed that the press was a menace during times of crisis and who imprisoned a newspaper editor without a trial because Lincoln didn’t like the “facts” he was printing.

The supposedly apolitical tweet was widely interpreted as  another CNN attack on President Trump, much as the sudden appearance of the new Washington Post motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness” was aimed at sending the message that the President obscures the truth and attacks the Bringers of Light…you know, like the paper that treats serious journalism like this. The Independent, for example, ran a story about the Lincoln tweet headlined, “CNN taunts Trump on July 4 with Abraham Lincoln quote on facts: The post did not mention the President, but it was obvious who it was directed at.”

After receiving an inquiry, Quote Investigator reported that the alleged Lincoln quote was both mis-stated and out of context. It found the old, 1865 newspaper article that related a conversation the reporter had with Lincoln in which he was discussing the public’s war weariness, and apparent willingness to allow the Confederacy to leave the Union. Lincoln, said the reporter, stated that he believed that the public’s opinion was based on misinformation. The full (hearsay) quote:

“I have faith in the people. They will not consent to disunion. The danger is that they are misled. Let them know the truth, and the nation will be safe.”

Let’s see…

The quote is a recollection from a hearsay source. There is no evidence that this is a real or accurate quote.

The quote, if accurate,  was not a general assertion about the safety of the nation depending on the public knowing “the truth.” It was lifted out of context by CNN.

The quote was very specifically aimed at the danger to the nation of the public in the North turning against the war, and Lincoln’s alleged statement that if the public had the truth, it would not support allowing the South to secede.

“Facts” and “truth” are not synonymous.

I know: some low level employee working on the Fourth of July put this quote out. That’s no excuse, and indeed is an indictment itself. The tweet was a false representation of Lincoln, his meaning , the quote, and its context. This is CNN. If it will spin history and quotes to serve its ends, it will spin facts and news coverage. If it will rely on badly trained, biased, partisan and incompetent weekend tweeters, why should we trust its management, editors, reporters or hosts?

NOTE: In the original post, I managed to mix up “truth” and “facts” myself transcribing from the newspaper clip. This is why I don’t pose as a national news organization.

17 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Social Media

17 responses to “CNN’s Fake Lincoln Quote [UPDATED]

  1. JP

    The link also says they attributed a quote to Ben franklin when it was someone else. Sloppy journalism all around.

  2. I’m maybe confused, but is the italicized quote correct? Should it say “truth” instead of “facts”?

  3. Phil Alperson

    “Nothing Found” in your link.

    FAKE NEWS?

    SAD!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. dragin_dragon

    Jack said:
    “The supposedly apolitical tweet was widely interpreted as another CNN attack on President Trump, much as the sudden appearance of the new Washington Post motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness” was aimed at sending the message that the President obscures the truth and attacks the Bringers of Light…you know, like the paper that treats serious journalism like this. ”

    “Bringers of Light”, like Light Bearer…Lucifer. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  5. Aaron paschall

    A little extra irony in the notion; The country would be safe if it knew the truth, instead of being misled. Maybe the unnamed intern was firing a shot at CNN itself, rather than the president. Certainly CNN is doing far more misleading than the president actually is these days!

    • I don’t want journalists worrying about “truth”—bias leads to warped decisions about what “facts” serve “the truth.” What today’s journalists routinely do is decide which “facts” are safe to let the public know about.

  6. I confess that The Independent gives me more credit than I apparently deserve. I see the publication of the quotation, irrespective of its bona fides, as self-serving, but it never occurred to me to regard it as anti-Trump rhetoric. Silly me, I guess.

    • I agree that it could be confirmation bias. Since the news media is obsessed with Trump, it’s tempting to read anything as Trump-related. (I do think the Post’s new motto was a shot at Trump.]

  7. Dwayne N. Zechman

    So CNN misquotes Lincoln on a quote in which Lincoln asserts the importance of the Press reporting the news truthfully.

    Got it.

    Irony, thy name is CNN.

    –Dwayne

  8. “Oh, hell, I might as well keep kicking CNN while it’s down in the hopes that it stays down and its rotting corpse frightens the mainstream news media into repenting, reforming, and practicing journalism again.”

    But what’s really going to happen is as CNN proves just how unethical and dishonest it is, all the other MSM outlets are going to remain dishonest and unethical, but not *as bad* and therefore will benefit from cognitive dissonance as the general population assumes the other outlets have “maintained integrity” while CNN falls.

    No, the MSM won’t repent. It will just benefit from cognitive dissonance.

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