In a wee-hours tweet, Gov. Greg Abbott posted a meme showing celebrated British statesman Winston Churchill saying, “The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.”
In his 1:10 a.m. Tuesday tweet, Abbott prefaced his citation of Churchill, who twice served as England’s prime minister, by writing: “Some insights are timeless.” Why Abbott posted the quotation might be explained by the headline on the meme above the purported Churchill quotation; it says: “Churchill on the left wing.”
Abbott was soon flooded with Twitter replies telling him that Churchill didn’t make that statement. Ten hours after posting it, Abbott deleted the tweet.
Let’s dig into the accuracy of that Churchill attribution.
Text on the left side of the Abbott-shared meme mentioned the 9gag.com site, which TechCrunch, a technology news website, described as “a Hong Kong-based site that hosts and distributes funny pictures, videos and memes.”
We visited the site and spotted the same Churchill meme under the headline: “A reference to G20 Thought you might enjoy this quote.” We didn’t spot a posting date on the meme. But reader comments below it start from July 10, 2017.
The chief curator of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo., Timothy Riley, told us that there’s no evidence to suggest Churchill made the quoted statement in over 15 million words that he wrote encompassing his speeches, articles, books and other writings.
“Whether he uttered the words in conversation is unknowable, but I am not aware of any of Churchill’s contemporaries who record or recall the statement,” Riley wrote.
Separately, the research director of a Hillsdale College project that has been publishing Churchill’s papers told us that its internal archive folding in Churchill’s writings, speeches and official biography show no sign of Churchill making the Abbott-quoted statement.
“I feel confident in saying that Churchill never said the statement,” Hillsdale research director Soren Geiger said.
Generally, Geiger said, “if anything sounds witty or edgy, people can quickly believe that Churchill said it.”
Speaking Tuesday in Waco, Abbott said it didn’t really matter who uttered the quote.
“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,” Abbott told reporters, referring to anti-fascist militant groups. “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.”
Abbott said that Churchill said, “The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.”
Abbott drew the quotation from a gag website, it appears, and neither he nor the site made available factual backup. Experts on Churchill’s writings and speeches say there’s no evidence Churchill made the statement.
We rate Abbott’s since-deleted claim False.
Statement: Says Winston Churchill said, ‘The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.’