In a now-deleted Tuesday morning tweet, Texas governor Greg Abbott posted a supposed Winston Churchill quote that seemed, just a little too conveniently, to warn against the dangers of right-wing bogeyman antifa.
You can see where this is going. From the Washington Post:
On Tuesday, Churchill historian Richard Langworth confirmed that the specific words cited in Abbott’s tweet — “the fascists of the future will call themselves antifascists” — do not show up when digitally searching millions of published words in letters, speeches, articles and books written by Churchill, or in memoirs by his colleagues and authoritative books about him.
Falsely quoting Churchill — who was known to turn a phrase or two in his time — is a time-honored tradition, to such an extent that the former prime minister’s official website has assembled a list of common expressions wrongly attributed to him. (He did not say “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”)
“This is an example of what we call ‘Churchillian drift’ or more generically ‘aphoristic drift,’” David Freeman, director of publications at the International Churchill Society, told the Austin American-Statesman. “A saying of perhaps unknown origin is mistakenly attributed to a major figure in history such as Churchill, Lincoln, or Einstein. Typically this is simply the result of carelessness, which appears to be the case with Gov. Abbott.”
The indispensable site Quote Investigator once conducted a thorough investigation of the “fascism” quote and found no evidence that Huey Long, the other person to whom the phrase is commonly attributed, said it either.
But, though Abbott’s office did scrub the tweet, the governor took a page from the indomitable Churchill by refusing to back down from his original point.
“Listen, what I tweeted was a sentiment that I have, and that is antifa is dangerous to society and antifa is the antithesis of safety and security, and they are antagonists to law enforcement as well as to other people,” Abbott said when asked by reporters about the tweet.
“It was irrelevant to me who may or may not have said that in the past,” he continued. “I didn’t want to be accused of plagiarism for saying it. If no one else said it, attribute the quote to me because it’s what I believe in.”
To quote the great Albert Einstein, “We shall never surrender.”