He Didn’t Say It: The RNC’s Bogus Theme

One of the main themes of the Republican convention is “We Did Build It,” a dishonest twist on something Barack Obama said about public spending on infrastructure.

We’ve already gone through this, in part to point out that many outlets chose to repeat the dishonest manipulation of Obama’s words instead of explaining what he had actually said.

But Republicans are undeterred, and as Bill Keller of the New York Times  (8/28/12) pointed out in a blog post, they found a way to take that dishonesty even further, unveiling videos where Obama is heard saying this:

If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You, you didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think: “Wow, it must be because I was just so smart.” There are a lot of smart people out there. “It must be because I worked harder than everyone else.” Let me tell you something, if you’ve got a business, that … you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Keller points out that what Obama actually said was this:

Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Since this is a defining theme for the Republican gathering, you would think (or at least hope) that journalists would point out that this is a lie. (That they’re expressing this sentiment in a stadium largely built thanks to taxpayer dollars–well, that’s icing on the cake.)

But turn to the Washington Post today (8/28/12), and you see this summary of the famous misquote:

Tuesday night, delegates in the Tampa Bay Times Forum convention hall waved signs saying “We built it”–mocking an Obama statement that business owners are not solely responsible for their successes.

“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” the president said at a rally in Virginia on July 13. “Somebody else made that happen.”

Democrats point out that, in context, Obama was referring to government-built infrastructure such as roads and bridges as well as the research that went into creating the Internet, all of which help businesses.

Still, the comment has become a favorite Republican theme, one that echoed many times in the speeches Tuesday.

As you can see, the Post‘s reporters offer readers exactly the same chopped rendition of Obama’s words as the Republican videos. Sure, reporters Karen Tumulty and David Fahrenthold go on to give us what “Democrats point out” about the “context” of those remarks–which is a fancy way of saying the words that are missing that explain what he was talking about.

The Post is right that this “a favorite Republican theme.” And why shouldn’t it be? Lying has obvious advantages–especially when journalists are afraid to call you on it.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.