Washington Times Lands Abe Lincoln Scoop

Washington Times columnist and prominent neoconservative Frank Gaffney opened his Wednesday column with a forceful quote attributed to President Abraham Lincoln:

Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.

This quote may have been news to Lincoln scholars, but it appears thousands of times on the Internet. It was even cited last year at a DC press conference by Congressman Jack Murtha’s Republican opponent, Diana Irey. The quote was especially familiar to close readers of Unification Church publications, which include the Washington Times and Insight magazine. That’s because the quote is fake and first appeared in the pages of Insight magazine. J. Michael Waller opened his 12/23/03 article, “Democrats Usher in An Age of Treason,” with those words. He later explained in an email to Factcheck.org:

The supposed quote in question is not a quote at all, and I never intended it to be construed as one. It was my lead sentence in the article that a copy editor mistakenly turned into a quote by incorrectly inserting quotation marks.

In other words, a Washington Times columnist recycled a fake Lincoln quote that originally appeared in the Washington Times‘ magazine. Incidentally, Factcheck.org concluded that, quote marks or not, Waller’s assertion about Lincoln was false. Insight is now defunct as a stand-alone magazine, but its website has continued to peddle misinformation with remarkable success. A recent smear piece, which falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton would accuse Barack Obama of covering up time spent at an Indonesian madrassa as a child, was picked up by Fox News and conservative talk radio and spewed across the nation.

You might think any news organization would be embarrassed to no end for making the same glaring error twice. But the Washington Times didn’t run a correction in today’s paper and Gaffney’s column is still posted – without an update, correction or apology – on washingtontimes.com and David Horowitz’s frontpagemag.com. For right-wing pundits, agitating the base clearly trumps getting the story right. After all, as Abraham Lincoln might have said, one should “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

Update: The Washington Times has finally pulled the Gaffney column from its site, but not before Republican Congressman Don Young of Alaska cited the quote on the House floor.