PHOENIX — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Al Melvin is using quotes from Abe Lincoln in his running fight with President Obama and his policies.
The problem: The 16th president never said the things about class warfare Melvin is quoting.
For example, in postings last week on Twitter, the state senator from Tucson wrote, “You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.” That quote, Melvin said, came from Lincoln.
Ditto for a quote of, “You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich,” and “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.”
None of these came from Lincoln, Brooks Simpson, a professor of history at Arizona State University, said when asked about the quotes by Capitol Media Services.
“I can tell you that these quotes are spurious,” Simpson said. “They do not appear in Lincoln’s writings or in his recollected words.”
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Melvin said he got the quotes from a Republican club newsletter.
“It sounded good,” he said. “It seemed like it was something that he would say.”
Told of the misattribution, Melvin said, “That’s news to me.”
Simpson said the comments are part of a series of statements by William J.H. Boetcker, made more than half a century after Lincoln was assassinated. In fact, Boetcker, a minister who toured the country, was not born until 1873.
“If anything, it’s an innocent mistake on my part,” Melvin said. The would-be governor said he liked the sentiment and wanted to be sure that no one thought he had made the statements himself.
“If Obama had said it, I would have credited him,” Melvin explained. “I know he wouldn’t have said it, but that was the point.”
Simpson said Melvin isn’t the first — and probably won’t be the last — to try to push an idea by putting the words into Lincoln’s mouth.
“I’m on the board of directors of the Abraham Lincoln Association,” Simpson said. “By now, we are used to hearing quotes attributed to Lincoln by people who have not taken the time to verify them.”
Even after being informed of the professor’s comments, Melvin still was not ready to concede that perhaps he had not done his research prior to the tweets.
“I have no idea who he is or what his political leanings are,” Melvin said.
It would not have been necessary for the senator to consult an academician to raise questions in his mind about what he was posting. A casual search of the Internet with the quotes reveals multiple sites which question the authenticity of the quotes.
Despite that, Melvin apparently is not the only one to misattribute the quotes to Lincoln. Ronald Reagan did the same thing in his 1992 speech to the Republican National Convention.