Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke April 2, 2019

No, Winston Churchill didn’t say 'what are we fighting for?' about the arts

A warning to anyone inclined to post a Winston Churchill quote to social media. He didn’t say, "When you’re 60, you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place." He didn’t say, "There are no minority rights" when Muslims are in the majority. He didn’t say, "The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists," as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted last year. And he didn’t say, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on," as Colin Kaepernick tweeted in 2017.

He also didn’t make this statement that appeared on Facebook on March 31. The post says: "When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, ‘then what are we fighting for?’"

It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Churchill led Britain during World War II and, according to the BBC, he’s credited as a driving force that inspired the country to keep fighting Nazi Germany. But he’s not credited with standing up for the arts in lieu of military spending.

We asked David Freeman, publications director at the International Churchill Society, about the quote.

Featured Fact-check

"Not true," he said. "It’s a common red herring on social media."

Over at the Churchill Project at Hillsdale College, Richard Langworth wrote in February 2017 that the quotation was attributed to Churchill "some years ago by the Village Voice, and has since migrated widely throughout the Internet."

"Unfortunately," he said, "our best efforts fail to find it among Churchill’s 15 million published words of speeches, papers, letters, articles or books."

Langworth instead points to a different, authentic statement Churchill made about painting and sculpture: "The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them. The country possesses in the Royal Academy an institution of wealth and power for the purpose of encouraging the arts of painting and sculpture … ."

We rate this Facebook post as False.

 
Share the Facts
2
1
7
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
False
"When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, ‘then what are we fighting for?’ "
Sunday, March 31, 2019

Our Sources

Facebook post, March 31, 2019

Email interview with David Freeman, director of publications, International Churchill Society, April 2, 2019

PolitiFact, "No, Winston Churchill didn’t say this quote about age," March 8, 2019

PolitiFact, "Meme incorrectly attributes Winston Churchill for quote on Muslims and minority rights," Dec. 20, 2018

PolitiFact, "Greg Abbott tweets bogus Winston Churchill quotation about anti-fascists," Aug. 7, 2018

PolitiFact, "NFL’s Colin Kaepernick incorrectly credits Winston Churchill for quote about lies," Oct. 9, 2017

BBC, "Who was Winston Churchill and why was he important?" Feb. 14, 2019

The Churchill Project, "The Arts: ‘What are we fighting for’?" Feb. 3, 2017

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Ciara O'Rourke

No, Winston Churchill didn’t say 'what are we fighting for?' about the arts

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up