A story in the Wall Street Journal has a look at the false-quote phenomenon, wherein phrases are seemingly made up out of nowhere, attributed to a famous person and passed along.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is apparently guilty of this. Though it’s possibly he, like many people, simply read a fake Winston Churchill somewhere and assumed it were authentic.

[Churchill expert Richard] Langworth says Chris Matthews, a fellow Churchill Centre board member and host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” has misquoted Churchill. Last year Mr. Matthews made a promotional ad for MSNBC in which he recounted Churchill being told during World War II that he should cut government funding for the arts.

“Then what are we fighting for?” Churchill replied, according to Mr. Matthews.

Mr. Langworth says Churchill never said it, though many over the years have used what Mr. Langworth calls “this famous ‘red herring’ nonquote.”

Mr. Matthews, a self-described “Churchill nut,” insists he hasn’t misquoted his hero, but adds, “How can you prove someone never said something?”

Well, in that case, how can you prove that Churchill didn’t also say “Hardball is a terrible show”?