The Path of a Spurious President Obama Quote

A New York Post editorial says (in a passage that has since been corrected on the site):

Romney has every right to be proud of his family’s accomplishments — as well as his own.

Even as Obama tries to portray it as repugnant — as he did this week with a remark that prompted the former Massachusetts governor’s response. “Unlike some people, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Obama said. That’s not just snotty — it’s woefully ignorant of the American spirit.

The trouble is that President Obama didn’t say “unlike some people” (see the portion starting about 9:20 in this video, and this official transcript). He just said (emphasis added):

Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth. They’ve been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us. That’s what leads to strong, durable economic growth. That’s how America became an economic superpower. That’s how we built the Transcontinental Railroad. That’s why we’ve got the best universities and colleges in the world. That’s why we have cutting-edge research that takes place here, and that then gets translated into new jobs and new businesses, because somebody did the groundwork. We created a foundation for those of us to prosper.

Somebody gave me an education. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn’t. But somebody gave us a chance — just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.

When you take classes at a community college like this one and you learn the skills that you need to get a job right away, that does not just benefit you; it benefits the company that ends up hiring and profiting from your skills. It makes the entire region stronger economically. It makes this country stronger economically.

Now here’s what seems to have happened. Allahpundit (Hot Air) posted a criticism of President Obama’s speech, with the title

Obama: Unlike some people, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth

There were no quotation marks in the title; the poster was characterizing what he thought President Obama was trying to communicate, and not purporting to quote the President’s exact words. [UPDATE: AllahPundit’s inference about Obama’s intended message echoed what the Washington Post story, to which AllahPundit linked, inferred: “To underscore that argument, Obama took a not-too-subtle swipe at his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, declaring: ‘I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.'”] But then Fox News’ Steve Doocy, in an interview of Governor Romney, said,

Speaking of rhetoric, he had some fiery rhetoric pointed at you yesterday. He said, unlike some people, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

Now that sounds much more like a claimed direct quote. In audio, as opposed to text, one can’t just look to the presence or absence of quotation marks, but the context strikes me as an assertion about the literal words the President actually said. Unsurprisingly, the interview transcript at interprets Doocy’s question precisely that way. And I infer that the New York Post likely picked up the quote from the Doocy interview.

This might well have all been an honest mistake on Doocy’s part, and an honest mistake on others’ part in believing him. But one reason Fox News and the New York Post get the big bucks, and have researchers on staff, is precisely so they can check what they say before they say it (especially nowadays, when video and transcripts of original events are so easily available) — even when, and perhaps especially when, the supposed “facts” are useful to the speaker’s argument. (Whether or not the initial “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth” statement was an implicit dig against Romney, the spurious version with the “Unlike some people” made the statement seem like a pretty clear dig, and, in the Post‘s words, much more “snotty.”)

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