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Obama speechwriters don’t know much about history

When George W. Bush got a fact wrong, our friends in the legacy media highlighted it as a sign of his stupidity.  If Barack Obama makes a mistake, well, if they get around to covering it, they’ll just see it as a sign of human imperfection.

Last night, before bed, I read that, in his speech yesterday offering up anecdotes from American history for “examples of ignorant incredulousness“, the Democrat, well, got his facts wrong about one of his Republican predecessors, claiming that “Rutherford B. Hayes couldn’t understand why anyone would want a telephone”. But, Nan Card Nan Card, curator of manuscripts at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio, corrected Mr. Hayes’s successor:

“He really was the opposite,” she said. “He had the first telephone in the White House. He also had the first typewriter in the White House. Thomas Edison came to the White House as well and displayed the phonograph. Photographing people who came to the White House and visited at dinners and receptions was also very important to him.”

While often cited, Card said Obama’s cited quote had never been confirmed by contemporary sources and is likely apocryphal. A contemporary newspaper account of his first experience with telephone in 1877 from the Providence Journal records a smiling Hayes repeatedly responding to the voice on the other line with the phrase, “That is wonderful.” You can read the full story here.

By the time I woke up this morning, conservative bloggers were all over the story. Steven Hayward offered an image of the former president and linked the page where I found the above images.

Glenn linked a Washington Post fact-checker scolding the president, “It’s bad enough for one president to knock another one for not being on Mt. Rushmore, but it’s particularly egregious to do so based on incorrect information.

Mr. President, in the age of all this new technology, when it’s easy for your critics to check your facts and publicize your errors, don’t you think your speechwriters could do a little fact-checking?



  1. Grow up people, it’s not about facts, it’s about appearances.

    Comment by Richard Bell — March 16, 2012 @ 5:42 pm - March 16, 2012

  2. History lesson: Google American presidents between Grant to McKinley w/ an eye to their Civil War service.

    Comment by Jeremayakovka — March 16, 2012 @ 6:00 pm - March 16, 2012

  3. It was not just the facts about Hayes that Obama got wrong. He also demonstrated an ignorance of Columbus with his “flat-earth” gibe. It was Columbus who was wrong, not his critics. The debate at the time was not whether the earth was flat or round, it was how large the earth was. Columbus believed that the earth was much smaller than it is; his critics were much closer to the truth. But Columbus was lucky–there was something unexpected out in the middle of the ocean. Columbus died thinking he had found a route to the Far East–he never understood what he in fact had accomplished. The misconception that people in the 15th century believed that the earth was flat was popularized in the 1870s in a war for public opinion between science and religion. See Steven Jay Gould, Rock of Ages (Ballentine, 1999) pp 111-124.

    Comment by nohype — March 16, 2012 @ 6:12 pm - March 16, 2012

  4. Given the Democrat meme about Bush and the elections of 2000 & 2004, you’d think that Obama would say someting about how Hayes (or at least his party the GOP) essentially stole the 1876 election from Tilden rather than this nonsense. Crack open a book Barack or at least check out the Wikipedia page for Hayes!

    Comment by JohnAGJ — March 16, 2012 @ 6:58 pm - March 16, 2012

  5. Fact check? Why bother? History rewrites itself so that Obama is never wrong about anything. Although I really wish Expedia would start letting me book trips to those extra seven states. It’s just racist to exclude them.

    Comment by Cy — March 17, 2012 @ 1:03 am - March 17, 2012

  6. If Barack Obama makes a mistake, well, if they get around to covering it, they’ll just see it as a sign of human imperfection.

    I don’t remember what Obama had said, but Rush highlighted a piece from somewhere, once, that said that his gaffes are a sign of his brilliance.

    Comment by TGC — March 17, 2012 @ 3:09 am - March 17, 2012

  7. Remember his speech writers are Democrats, so making a few mistakes is the new A+.

    Comment by davinci — March 17, 2012 @ 1:23 pm - March 17, 2012

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