Actress Rose McGowan, on May 24, was caught passing along a fake quote attributed to GOP presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
The fabrication portrayed Cruz as defending reality TV personality Josh Duggar against child molestation allegations, saying that "Duggar's transgressions are far less an affront to God than what gays do with each other."
Snopes has exposed the bogus quote, and McGowan has apologized – sort of. Naturally, she doesn't want to admit that she was so eager to believe the worst about an opponent that she fell for an easy-to-uncover deception.
Unfortunately, people fall for this sort of thing all the time. Here's a list of some prominent misrepresentations that have caught on over the years:
1. May 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu goes on a racist rant against Israeli Arabs.
Netanyahu was condemned by President Barack Obama and others for an election-day slur, but all he said was that many Arab voters – who tend to vote against Netanyahu's party – were showing up to vote, and that his own supporters would have to increase turnout in order to win the election. That's no more bigoted than saying that (given the gender gap) Democrats win when more women vote, and Republicans win when more men vote.
2. February 2015, Obama wants to beat Islamic State with just a jobs program.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said the Obama administration would attempt to address the "root causes" (such as joblessness) of why people join the militant Islamic State. Pundits such as Rush Limbaugh caricatured this as the only strategy Obama was offering – with no military component whatsoever – even while playing the clip of Harf saying, "we're killing a lot of them. And we're going to keep killing more of them."
3. August 2014, "hands up, don't shoot" becomes a protest slogan.
After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by police officer Darren Wilson, word spread that he'd been killed while surrendering. The story caught on, and "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" became a staple of civil rights protests. But investigations didn't bear the story out – it was perhaps concocted by Dorian Johnson, Brown's companion – and Wilson was not charged.
4. August 2012, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign doesn't care about facts.
Defending Romney's campaign against critical fact-checkers, pollster Neil Newhouse said: “Fact-checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs and you know what? We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Former President Bill Clinton and pundit Steve Benen focused only on the latter sentence, accusing Romney's campaign of saying facts don't matter rather than simply questioning the fact-checkers', uh, factitude. In accusing the other side of not caring about facts, they got their facts wrong. Oops.
5. July 2012, Obama says you didn't build your business.
"If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that," became an unwelcome slogan for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. Romney, Limbaugh, GOP chair Reince Priebus and others excoriated the president. But, looking at the full quote, it's clear the demonstrative pronoun "that" – demonstrative pronouns and their ambiguous referents, am I right? Yeah, I'm right – is referring to the roads, bridges, and teachers that helped people succeed. But critics chose the worse interpretation, and Obama's "you didn't make it on your own" message was lost.
6. June 2011, Obama says ATMs are bad.
While discussing the economic recovery, Obama cited "structural issues", where jobs once performed by people are now being done by ATMs and kiosks. Condemnation followed, with pundit Michelle Malkin calling Obama a "Luddite". Maybe Obama was dodging responsibility for the slow recovery, but he never said we shouldn't have ATMs, or that the unemployment caused by automation isn't outweighed by gains in other sectors of the economy. Technology sometimes puts people out of work; pointing that out doesn't make you a Luddite.
7. March 2010, Rep. Nancy Pelosi says we have to pass Obamacare to find out what's in it.
As Speaker of the House during the debate on the Affordable Care Act, Pelosi lamented the "controversies" making the debate so contentious. "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy," she said. Critics left off the last seven words, as well as the parts where she pointed out things that were in the bill: investment in community health centers, funds for preventive care, etc. Whatever, critics turned it into her saying, "pass the bill first, find out what's in it later."
8. January 2009, Limbaugh hopes the country fails.
When asked to write 400 words on his hope for the Obama presidency, Limbaugh offered just four: "I hope he fails." Critics accused him of rooting for failure, and Texas state Rep. Mark Strama said Limbaugh "would rather see the country fail than this president succeed." But the full context shows Limbaugh hoping Obama will fail to implement liberal policies, which – as a conservative – he believes are bad for the country.
9. September 2008, Sarah Palin says she can see Russia from her house.
In the 2008 election, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin noted that you can see Russia from some parts of Alaska (where she was governor). Saturday Night Live satirized the quote to mock her: "I can see Russia from my house!" The meme caught on, and even after the election people had trouble figuring out whether comedian Tina Fey was quoting Palin accurately, or just making stuff up.
10. July 2008, Obama wants to create a Gestapo-style civilian national security force.
Limbaugh even cited this one May 28, 2015. But, no, all Obama advocated was a list of civilian projects, like supporting veterans, mentoring children, and growing the Peace Corps. None of this turns us into Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.
11. January 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants 100 years of war in Iraq.
In the 2008 campaign, GOP candidate McCain made it clear he had no problem with U.S. troops being in Iraq for 100 years, "as long as Americans are not being injured, or harmed, or wounded or killed." But Obama, Howard Dean, and Hillary Clinton changed this into "100 more years of war." Defending himself from accusations that he'd distorted McCain's remarks, Obama bizarrely directed people to the YouTube clip that proved Obama was wrong. Somehow this never became a meme to mock Obama, the way "I can see Russia from my house" was used to deride Palin.
12. Nazis advocated telling big lies, which are more believable.
While we're on the topic of people and their willingness to believe fabrications, Adolf Hitler is frequently credited with adopting a "big lie" theory of propaganda. But, while Hitler talks about how people fall for "colossal untruths," he doesn't suggest using the tactic. Rather, he blames others – Jews and Marxists, naturally – for resorting to this strategy. Joseph Goebbels later accused the English of doing the same. All the time the Nazis were telling big lies, they only thought other people were doing it. Crazy, right?
Feature Image source: John Parra/WireImage
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