November 3rd, 2011
12:21 PM ET
By John Blake, CNN
As President Ronald Reagan used to say, “There you go again…”
When White House press secretary Jay Carney was giving a press conference Wednesday touting President Obama’s jobs bill, he invoked a popular saying that he said comes from the Bible.
That’s when things got twisted.
Earlier that day, President Obama had urged passage of a provision in his job bill by saying, “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”
A reporter later asked Carney if Obama crossed the line by bringing God into the jobs debate. Carney’s response:
“I believe that the phrase from the Bible is, ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves.' ”
Carney was wrong. That phrase is what I called a “phantom Bible scripture” in a story I wrote earlier this year called, “Actually, That’s not in the Bible.”
The “Lord helps those who help themselves” is actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation’s founding fathers.
The story was first reported by Politico.
Misquoting the Bible is one of those rare bipartisan issues. Politicians have been misquoting the Bible for years. But ordinary people – coaches giving pep talks, motivational speakers, even preachers – do it all the time.
The White House, to its credit, corrected itself later on Wednesday. When it released the official transcript of Carney’s daily briefing, if posted a correction at the top saying that the phrase about self-help “does not appear in the Bible.”
Next time you want to go biblical on someone, help yourself by actually looking in the Bible to see if it’s really scripture – or just another phantom Bible verse.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.