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In a wee-hours tweet, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott presented a meme showing celebrated British statesman Winston Churchill saying: "The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists."
In his 1:10 a.m. Aug. 7, 2018 tweet, Abbott prefaced his citation of Churchill, who twice served as England’s prime minister: "Some insights are timeless." Why Abbott posted the quotation might be explained by the headline on the meme above the purported Churchill quotation; it says: "Churchill on the left wing."
Later the same morning, multiple others--including Wes Wilson of Austin’s KXAN TV news staff--responded on Twitter by asserting that Churchill didn’t make the statement shared by Abbott.
Also, within 10 hours of the Abbott tweet's appearance, it was no longer posted. Abbott then told reporters, Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune reported, that it was irrelevant to him "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."
Text down the left side of the Abbott-shared meme mentioned the 9gag.com site, which TechCrunch, a technology news website, described in 2017 as "a Hong Kong-based site that hosts and distributes funny pictures, videos and memes."
We visited the site and spotted the same Churchill meme under the headline: "A reference to G20 Thought you might enjoy this quote." We didn’t spot a posting date on the meme. But reader comments below it start from July 10, 2017.
Our phone and email inquiries about Abbott’s claim didn’t draw elaboration from Abbott’s campaign spokesman.
Experts spot no evidence Churchill made statement
Separately by email, the chief curator of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, Timothy Riley, told us that there’s no evidence to suggest Churchill made the quoted statement in over 15 million words that he wrote encompassing his speeches, articles, books and other writings.
"Whether he uttered the words in conversation is unknowable, but I am not aware of any of Churchill’s contemporaries who record or recall the statement," Riley wrote.
Separately, the research director of a Hillsdale College project that has been publishing Churchill’s papers responded to us by advising that its internal archive folding in Churchill’s writings, speeches and official biography show no sign of Churchill making the Abbott-quoted statement.
Soren Geiger said: "I feel confident in saying that Churchill never said the statement."
Generally, Geiger said, "if anything sounds witty or edgy, people can quickly believe that Churchill said it."
We asked Geiger if Churchill made other comments about future fascists. By email, Geiger also provided a copy of Churchill’s July 27, 1943, speech about World War II and Italy to the House of Commons. In it, Churchill said: "The keystone of the Fascist arch has crumbled, and, without attempting to prophesy, it does not seem unlikely that the entire Fascist edifice will fall to the ground in ruins, if it has not already so fallen. The totalitarian system of a single party, armed with secret police, engrossing to itself practically all the offices, even the humblest, under the Government, with magistrates and courts under the control of the executive, with its whole network of domestic spies and neighbourly informants – that system when applied over a long period of time, leaves the broad masses without any influence upon their country’s destinies and without any independent figures apart from the official classes."
Abbott said that Churchill said, "The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists."
Abbott drew the quotation from a gag website,it appears, and neither he nor the site made available factual backup. Experts on Churchill’s writings and speeches say there’s no evidence Churchill made the statement.
We rate Abbott's since-deleted claim False.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Tweet by Greg Abbott, 1:10 a.m. Aug. 7, 2018 (tweet was deleted by 10:30 a.m. Aug. 7, 2018)
Tweet by Patrick Svitek, Texas Tribune, 11:15 a.m. Aug. 7, 2018
News story, "9GAG CEO Ray Chan: ‘Building a healthy community is a never-ending battle,'" TechCrunch, July 26, 2017
Meme, "A reference to G20 Thought you might enjoy this quote," 9gag.com, undated (viewer comments appearing below the meme start from July 10, 2017)
Phone interview and emails, Soren Geiger, research director, the Churchill Papers, Hillsdale College, Aug. 7, 2018
Email, Timothy Riley, Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout director and chief curator, National Churchill Museum, Westminster College, Aug. 7, 2018
Speech by Winston Churchill to House of Commons, July 27, 1943 (received by email from Soren Geiger, Aug. 7, 2018)
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