Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took to Twitter in the wee hours of the night to warn against the dangers of anti-fascism, known as Antifa, by sharing a supposed Winston Churchill quote.
“The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.”
In the now-deleted tweet posted on Tuesday, the Republican governor accompanied the quote by noting that “some insights are timeless.” The photo containing the quote and a black and white photo of the former prime minister included the introductory message, “Churchill on the leftwing.”
However, the celebrated English statesman who served as Britain’s prime minister twice most likely never uttered such words.
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) August 7, 2018
David Freeman of the International Churchill Society told The Washington Post that the string of words do not show up in any documentation related to Churchill, though it would take more exhaustive research to be completely certain. This claim was backed up by Churchill historian Richard Langworth who also told the Post that the words do not show up when digitally searching letters, speeches, articles and books written by Churchill, or even in memoirs written by his colleagues and other authoritative books about him.
Falsely quoting Churchill — who had a knack for turning phrases — is so common that the former prime minister’s official website has a page dedicated to quotes falsely attributed to him. The tradition even has a name: Churchillian Drift, a term that describes the widespread phenomenon of attributing quotes by obscure figures to more famous ones, like Churchill, Einstein, or Gandhi.
Abbott was questioned about the tweet, which was deleted just hours after being posted, as he was leaving an unrelated news conference on Tuesday, according to the Texas Tribune.
“Listen, 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, and they are antagonists to law enforcement as well as to other people,” he said.
Abbott added that whether Churchill said the words is not the point because the sentiment is still reflective of his opinion.
“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 has previously been caught in a similar situation. Last year, he used Twitter to share an article that claimed Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had threatened to kick players off the football team if they refused to stand for the National Anthem. When told the claim was false, Abbott said he wished it was true because he agrees with the sentiment.