Early Tuesday morning, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shared some speculations on the future of the American left on Twitter by channelling the wisdom of British World War II hero and notorious fascism-hater.
“The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists,” Sir Winston Churchill declares, with a forlorn, thoughtful look.
“Some insights are timeless,” Abbott commented approvingly.
It was, unsurprisingly, easy for the internet’s amateur fact-checkers to confirm Winston Churchill never said this. Many tweeted at Abbott to let him know it took them less than a minute to find that the quote was misattributed (it has been more commonly credited to the populist Louisiana governor Huey Long, though that attribution is questionable as well). Within hours, it had been thoroughly fact-checked and comprehensively debunked. Abbott deleted his tweet around 10:30 a.m., after it had been retweeted more than 1,400 times, according to the Dallas Morning News.
While the content of the tweet was devoid of any real facts, it at least revealed that Abbott, much like the president of the United States, at least partially equates neo-Nazis and those who rally to oppose them. “What I tweeted was a sentiment that I had,” Abbott told reporters later in the morning at a press conference to do with bail laws. “It was irrelevant to me who may or may not have said that in the past. 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.”
People on the Twitter didn’t end up bestowing that attribution on him, but they did choose to take some other liberties.
If Abbott had bothered to dig up a real quote of Churchill’s, for instance one that asserted political confidence, he might have deployed this delightful brag by the future prime minister in a letter to a friend: “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow worm.”
Now that the damage is done, perhaps Abbott can reclaim some respectability—and show a little self-awareness—by tweeting a follow-up with this fitting quote from Churchill’s The Second World War, Volume IV:
I am reminded of the professor who, in his declining hours, was asked by his devoted pupils for his final counsel. He replied, “Verify your quotations.”