Palin’s Fake Quote

Everyone’s talking about Palin’s botched Supreme Court response, but I haven’t seen much conversation yet about her answer to Couric’s question regarding the separation of church and state. Take a listen:

Katie Couric: Thomas Jefferson wrote about the First Amendment, building a wall of separation between church and state. Why do you think that’s so important?

Sarah Palin: His intention in expressing that was so that government did not mandate a religion on people. And Thomas Jefferson also said never underestimate the wisdom of the people. And the wisdom of the people, I think in this issue is that people have the right and the ability and the desire to express their own religious views, be it a very personal level, which is why I choose to express my faith, or in a more public forum.

And the wisdom of the people, thankfully, engrained in the foundation of our country, is so extremely important. And Thomas Jefferson wanted to protect that.

Not only does Palin get so twisted up in herself that it’s tough to remember what the question was in the first place, but I went hunting for the Jefferson quote she references and couldn’t find it. I did dig up this:

“It is not wisdom alone but public confidence in that wisdom which can support an administration.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1824.

If this is what Palin was going for, she not only took it out of context, but she wasn’t even close.

Then I found this interaction on amongst chatters in the Sean Hannity forum, and they came to the same conclusion. There is no Jefferson quote.

You know you’re in trouble when the Fox peeps call your bluff.

started on-air as a sports reporter in Hagerstown, Md and was a one-woman-band - shooting, writing, editing, and working the teleprompter with my foot. I moved to NYC in 1999 and joined - the world's first interactive TV network. Pseudo died Sept 2000, and the following years were filled with a series for Discovery International, a pilot for the History Channel, a pilot for the Travel Channel, and countless auditions. Client feedback research for a big investment bank paid the bills. In 2004, I took a gig with Kuma and made news reports for their reality-based video games. CNN called February 2005, and on Valentine's Day, I started covering the Internet as a beat on national TV. I left cable news in 2007, started this site, wrote a little for Americablog, and threw down the gauntlet. I said I'd leave TV to help fix health care if someone was taking a real stab at it. Someone was. I became the National Communications Director for Health Care for America Now. That was June 2008, and almost 2 years later - on March 25, 2010 - we won health care reform. I am currently at liberty.

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  • gone2sanibel

    I think her fake quotes pale in comparison to her fake mannerisms and populist schtick. Everytime she winks, I cringe. And everytime she talks about Joe SixPack, I think about her husband driving drunk. Why does she think the average American drinks a six-pack a day – that’s incredibly insulting. Her winking and flirting are the maneuvers of a half-wit who has learned to get by without any real talent. I used to think McCain was a pretty solid politician, but his pick of Palin shows that he is either impulsive, superficial in his thinking, lacking in judgment, or all three.

  • What she says sounds like an abbreviated version of this quote.

    “I am satisfied the good sense of the people is the strongest army our government can ever have, and that it will not fail them.” -Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, 1786. ME 6:31 (Source:

  • James Madison, “The father of the Constitution,” opposed all use of “religion as an engine of civil policy.” He even opposed the appointment of Chaplains for the Congress. In 1789, as Chairman of the House Conference Committee on the Bill of Rights, he offered his own wording for the First Amendment:

    “The civil right of none shall be infringed on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal right of conscience be in any manner , or on any pretext, infringed.”

    I can go on and on about the dangers of mixing government and religion, but as is often the case, Jefferson himself sums it up best when he writes, In 1814 to Horatio Spafford, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own.”

  • Thomas Jefferson wrote to Dr. Thomas Cooper in 1814, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of common law.”

    It also important to point out the language of “The Treaty of Tripoli, initiated by George Washington during his Presidency and later signed into law by John Adams in May of 1797.

    The Treaty reads (complete with eighteenth-century spellings of the words Muslims and Mohammedan):

    Article 11.

    As the government of the United States of American is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself not character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Messelmen, and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    Thomas Jefferson worked vigorously to oppose efforts by Patrick Henry to establish a theocratic government in Virginia. In “Notes on The State of Virginia,” Jefferson writes: “It does me no injury for my neighbors to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Jefferson often issued stern warnings about the intertwining of government and religion. He writes in 1813, “History I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

  • BRob

    Actually Jefferson did say that one of the 3 things of which he was most proud was the Va. legislation mandating separation of church and state. Maybe it was that quote that was floating in the back of Sarah’s mind.

  • Endicott

    “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;… whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” –Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789.

  • moreleesafer

    WOW! i just went to the link. John is there any validation to this? if so, that would be two speeches in which she references some Nazi believer’s quotes, right?

  • moreleesafer

    I remember a quote, can’t remember where it came from or who said it:

    “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullsh*t.”

    I think Palin does the latter very well.

  • Guest

    That was my description of W in 2000. Is it possible they are fraternal twins?

  • Guest

    OT, but a hoot from David Letterman’s top ten things overheard at the Palin debate camp.

  • Rab

    I agree and especially when its not 20%, its lower than that.

  • msskwesq

    I think Sarah got Tomas Jefferson mixed up with Boris Badenov from the Bullwinkle cartoons, he always said: “Never underestimate the power of a Shnook!” I have a feeling Sarah watched a lot of cartoons! Actually, Sarah IS a cartoon!

  • Cpeterka

    I remember a record album from back in the 60’s by “Brother Dave Gardner”, a baptist style standup comic who said,
    “Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘The Lord must have loved the common people, because he made so many of them.’ Now that sounds good in print, but you just go up and tell someone that they are Common, and see how fast they smack you right in the mouth!”

    Maybe she was thinking of Lincoln ?
    He was a great Republican who gave a lot a people the freedom to choose.
    OOP’s Freedom to Choose? I guess she shouldn’t quote Abraham Lincoln.

  • EmGD

    Butchering a quote and getting it’s entire meaning wrong is a step up for Sarah. It at least implies there’s something she misremembered, instead of the fact that she can only repeat soundbytes that were told to her.

  • northerner12000

    Ooops – Yes, of course that is what I was trying to say. I’ve been listening to too much Sarah Palin. It’s turning my brain to oatmeal.

  • deblen

    Sorry, you’ve got that a little mixed up.
    From WikiQuote,
    “Nobody ever went broke UNDERestimating the intelligence of the American people”
    This quote is from H. L. Mencken not Barnum.

    I’m sure lots of folks have gone broke OVERestimating the intelligence of the American people.

  • Aanya

    We are constantly told by McCain that Sarah Palin is an energy expert. He claims to rely on her expertise on energy. Joe Biden should ask for her credentials, background, and experience in energy! Supplying 20% of our oil supply is not an energy expert.

  • northerner12000

    I think the quote she was looking for was not from Jefferson, but P.T. Barnum:
    “Nobody ever went broke by overestimating the intelligence of the American people.”

    So cut her some slack – she was a little off, but the quote was absolutely appropriate.

  • debrazza

    This is seriously bizarre, but word for word hte only place this quote can be found is in this book.

    Not a joke and seriously, seriously disturbing. This should end her candidacy.

  • BarrieT

    I think the wisdom of the people has been pretty bloody latent in the last two presidential elections.

  • interlude

    it’s pageant speak

  • Lolis

    Sadly for Sarah, this was one of her best answers on the teevee.

  • deblen

    Maybe she was trying for this quote:
    “Democracy is cumbersome, slow and inefficient, but in due time, the voice of the people will be heard and their latent wisdom will prevail.”
    the author is unverified, but it is attributed to Jefferson.

    Of course, still not sure what the hell she’s talking about.
    And I love that use of “latent” (defined as: present or potential but not evident.) I think that might describe Palin at this point. I’m sure she’s not as much of an idiot as she appears to be.

  • BarrieT

    Disturbingly, I’m starting to find Katie Couric kinda cute, and Palin looks like Clint Walker in drag.

  • bunnyjump

    Jeebus, Palin’s pathetic. This is stuff you see from a high school student who doesn’t know the answers to the questions on the test!

  • So Palin can’t quote the Founding Fathers correctly but does well with quotes from racist fascists. Interesting.

  • fl79tr

    Sarah Palin makes Katie Couric look like Noam Chomsky, and makes Joe Biden look like Einstein and Socrates put together.

  • WHYN0T

    This presidential election is one BIG joke. Both sides are complicit.

  • DastiusKrazitauc

    I don’t understand any part of her answer. Religion = wisdom?

    If Gwen Ifill asks her to explain her blather, will that be considered “unfair”?

  • Bush_Bites

    She bullshits.

    It worked in Alaska; don’t know if it will work nationally or not.

    Seems like most people would be able to see through it, but who knows?

  • Bush_Bites

    OK, here’s my thing.

    Why don’t TV producers have people on the internet working furiously when a Talking Head does one of these interviews, and letting the Talking Head know over earpiece when the Interviewee is talking bullshit.

    I realize that kind of real-time research would be hard, but it’s not impossible if the pace of the show is right. I just get so sick of watching Repubs lie in these interviews and never get called on it until two days later.

    Or maybe a fact check at the end of the show? Or a series of follow ups at the end of the show to clear up discrepancies.

    Seriously, these talking heads shows are all just becoming propaganda hours. I remember when Russert would sit there with his stupid grin, while being lied to by Cheney, and never correcting the record.

    It’s like they don’t even care that they’re broadcasting errors every day–A newspaper would have to run a whole section of corrections if they did such sloppy work.

  • sisterfaith

    Such a difference…Moose Girl rambles and babbles and throws out “quotes” and Joe is clear, concise……

  • BarbaraGordon

    I think that she is a babbling fool but the pundits are going to spin it as though she is Margaret Thatcher. Some people will think that her long-winded bullshit answers are things of brilliance.

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  • MnDem

    I’m glad that I was able to see both Biden’s and Palin’s answer on this question, as well as the Supreme Court questions. It’s such a contrast – Biden’s clear, competent answers, and Palin’s rambling talking points answers.

    Again, which will appeal to the independent, swing voters who haven’t made up their minds? If Biden can give, clear, concise answers tonight, I think those undecided voters will see the difference. Remember, it’s the hardcore, fundamentalist Christian far right who love her. People in the middle aren’t so sure.

  • JohnInTexas

    I agree with Deacon_Blues, she’s going to crash and burn. Hope Cindy has her stash with her, she’s liable to get an asswhippin when McCranky gets home tonight.

  • Just_Anonymoose

    I happen to think that all the pundits, and for that matter most of the bloggers, are wrong about Palin. I don’t think she’s shown any real ability to talk extemporaneously — I think she’s gonna crash and burn tonight, and take McCain with her. IMHO.

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