Ben Carson’s supporters are distributing a leaflet on him at CPAC that includes a quote falsely attributed to the French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville.
The booklet, called “Ben Carson On the Issues in His Own Words,” was printed by the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee. It includes excerpts from Carson’s columns and books that detail his stances on different issues, including abortion (against), political correctness (against), and traditional moral values (for). Under the heading “American exceptionalism,” the booklet has an excerpt from an April 2014 Washington Times column by Carson. In the column, Carson writes that Tocqueville “was impressed by the fiery sermons that emphasized the word of God and not the social mores of the day.”
“He concluded his American analysis by saying, ‘America is great, because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great,’” Carson wrote.
Too bad Tocqueville never said that. In a 1995 piece for the Weekly Standard, John Pitney Jr. detailed the origins of the fake quote, which first showed up in a 1941 book without any documentation of its origin. At least Carson’s error is Reaganesque; the former president used it multiple times, falsely attributing it to the Frenchman. Pitney notes that Bill Clinton also trotted out the fake quote in 1994.
“We could make a nasty crack about politicians who cannot tell Alexis de Tocqueville from Maurice Chevalier, but that would be irrelevant since they seldom write their own material anyway,” Pitney wrote.
Other media outlets seem to have noticed Carson’s flub. His column is syndicated, and National Review republished it as saying, “He is often said to have observed” rather than “he concluded his American analysis by saying.”