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By Tom Tobin March 24, 2008

A made-up quote goes global

They have online names like fiberguy, dittoheadAZ and Hank the Tank. And they're among scores who have made blog postings and sent e-mails passing on a quote they attribute to Sen. Barack Obama: "My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it." The quote is almost always accompanied by a barb that asks why the candidate would want to change something that is so great.

It appears, however, that Obama never made the remark. It originated in a Jan. 28, 2008, blog post on The Corner, a blog at National Review Online. The poster was Mark Steyn, the Canadian columnist, author and conservative commentator, who was passing along a made-up, tongue-in-cheek stump speech crafted by a "correspondent of mine." Steyn, whose work appears in many newspapers and is a frequent guest on conservative radio and TV, has his own Web site.

Said Victoria Ayrsmith, an assistant editor at "The alleged quote is, in fact, a letter from one of Mark's readers, who devised a parodic all-purpose stump speech written in the aftermath of Iowa and New Hampshire when Senators McCain and Clinton were claiming to be 'agents of change.' There is no mention of Barack Obama anywhere in the item at all."

If fact, it was attributed to no one, not even its intended targets, McCain and Clinton.

Ayrsmith continued: "The letter was submitted to the Mailbox page at our Web site, but Mark thought it a funny enough joke to merit a stand-alone post at National Review. It is the inspired creation of one of his readers north of the border — John Gross, who lives in the Province of Quebec. Mr. Gross certainly deserves credit, if only because, with all the attention it's getting, it seems likely to be in the next edition of Bartlett's."

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Some of the confusion may have come from the headline Steyn placed on his original post, "Barracking Barack."

We contacted Obama's campaign. But on a week when his staff was consumed with fallout from Obama's ties to Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., they seemed unconcerned about the inquiry. A staffer who asked not to be named said, "I don't think he said this but I'm not 100 percent sure."

We conducted a thorough electronic search of all print stories as well as transcripts of television and radio programs, news conferences and press briefings. There is no record that Obama or any other candidate publicly uttered the words in question. More evidence: A Google search of the quote finds no mention of it before Steyn's Jan. 28 post.

Our fact-checking cousins at also looked into the quote and the claims that Obama said it. They found them false.

We'll second that. In fact, it's so false it's Pants on Fire wrong.

Our Sources

National Review Online — The Corner, "Barracking Barack," Jan. 28, 2008, "Small Change," March 15, 2008

E-mail interview with Victoria Ayrsmith, assistant editor,, March 20, 2008

E-mail interview with Barack Obama campaign, March 19 and 20, 2008

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A made-up quote goes global

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