The Washington Post

Faux Thomas Jefferson quote cited by Rep. Poe

Rep. Ted Poe’s Web site cites Jefferson. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Quotes attributed to Great Americans abound out there — but they’re not always accurate. Even Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) apparently fell for a widely circulated faux witticism.

Poe’s House Web page highlights a rotating batch of inspirational quotes. Among them is this gem from Thomas Jefferson: “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those that are willing to work and give to those who are not.”

It’s a ditty favored by Tea Partiers and critics of welfare and the like.

It’s also not something the esteemed Jefferson ever said or wrote, and a local historian called the miscredited quote to the Loop’s attention. In fact, the saying is on a list of “spurious” sentiments frequently attributed to the third president, maintained by Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

According to Monticello, the first known mention of the quote was in a 1986 book called “Dreams Come Due” by an author using the pseudonym John Galt (the name of a character in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” a key volume in the libertarian canon).

A Poe spokeswoman didn’t respond to the Loop’s request for a comment, so we can only assume Poe and his staffers didn’t realize the quotation was fabricated.

As the Greek poet Homer once said: “D’oh!”

Rep. Ted Poe’s Web site featured this erroneously attributed quote.
Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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