November 3rd, 2011
12:21 PM ET

White House press secretary misquotes the Bible

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.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Obama • Politics

soundoff (555 Responses)
  1. Kinseyp Beardmoree

    This article is related to web programming is truly fastidious in favor of me as I am website programmer. Thanks for sharing keep it up.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:56 am |
  2. Iqbal Khan


    November 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  3. ___.__

    Humans wrote the bible.

    Prayer is a placebo.

    Atheists are generally smarter than religious people.

    The bible supports slavery, sacrificing your child, and stoning people to death.

    Morality does not come from the bible.

    Most of the 10 commandments aren't even laws..

    November 13, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  4. cloud91977

    The Bible says over and over again that the Lord helps those who help themselves. It may not say it in those words, but the gyst of many of the lessons in the Bible is that you have to choose to do what is right to recieve the blessings from this supposed godhead.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Joey

      Actually, the point of the bible, especially the new testament, is that we can not help ourselves. Our hope is in Christ as well as our help. It is not our actions that dictate the blessings but Gods love.

      November 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  5. God Where Art Thou.

    Let's own up. The Press Secretary is going fine. His comments to the press have been informative and so why both with this mindless chit chat abuse. If you want to nail anything nail the media not the messenger. The media is the Bible.

    If you want to know the truth about this whole thing go to the top of the food chain. Someone who is the best in the field. Someone who went to the best colleges for his research and has something worthwhile to say. Bart D. Ehrman is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestselling Misquoting Jesus and God's Problem. You will enjoy any of the lectures or books by Bart D. Ehrman. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He has been featured in Time and has appeared on Dateline NBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, the History Channel, major NPR shows, and other top media outlets. History should be based on scientific research not gossip.

    Religion is not historically proven to be accurate. Stories told at camp fires by drunks, snake charmers and wacko. Just nuts I tell yeah!

    November 9, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  6. Iqbal Khan


    November 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  7. Iqbal Khan


    November 5, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  8. Iqbal Khan


    November 5, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  9. myklds

    May God Bless all the atheists.

    November 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  10. RightTurnClyde

    The last place anybody would look for evidence of intelligent life on earth is the White House. This is the worst bungling moron ever to occupy that building (making Carter look much better). The best thing one might say about his appointees is that they are crooks (like Governor Blagovich) and no hint of intelligence (not educated, not mannered, not even accountable) Excluded from all Royal affairs in England and the laughing stock of Europe and Asia. Failed fiscal policies, failed foreign policy, ignorant of the bible entirely, failed border policy, a HS secretary who wants to detain Christians and veterans in concentration camps like Hitler. This WH occupant is the worst we've ever had - worse than Jackson, Wilson, Carter (and that's terrible). Not certain he is even an American citizen. No personal history at all, no resume, no achievements, no successes, no loyalty, no honor, no birth certificate, no personal friends, no mother, no father, no grand parents, no schoolmates, no college transcript. Occasional lecturer at U. of Chicago.and

    November 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Good god, you're a moron.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Oh yes, the nation pines for such Republican geniuses and W, Quayle, Reagan and Agnew! And to think we could have had John "last in his class" McCain and Sarah "I make Dan Quayle look presidential" Palin!

      November 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Not many good choices and yet all of them better than what exists today (and that was a choice ..and a majority made it). A big mistake. Yes McCain was not appealing either (but would not have destroyed medicine, appointed Hitler to the HS chief, spent untold trillions on fool hardy "bail out" .. mostly to UAW and bankers. .. turned his back on Arizona and 15 other ENTIRE states, broke ALL promises about Iraq and Afghantistan .. and Gitmo .. GIVEN ILLEGAL GUNS to Mexican Bandits!!! Turned his back on desperate Mobile and Joplin MO after natural disasters, encouraged a Moslem shrine at Ground Zero! Been snubbed by the British Royal family (because of insufficient manners .. simple manners .. greetings and fork holding)... castigate a police department for asking a burglar for ID.. ... the list goes one and one and on... AND the unemployment rate goes up and up and up .. and will continue all the time he is in the WH. Unoffically at the 30% level and getting worse. Now and 'Occupy" movement of homeless people who are unemployed because of him .. and his dumb bail out... YOU LIKE THIS??? There has never been such an abject failure in our history...

      November 5, 2011 at 4:33 am |
    • JohnR

      You're ridiculous, RTC.

      November 5, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gee, so much WORSE than "decider", "is our children learning", and other gibberish we've heard from the loyal opposition. Really, Clyde, you're beyond idiotic.

      November 5, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  11. dora

    Christian Believers, where R – U.. We definately need to ask for PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for our country on Wisdom from our Lord and only Lord, Christ Jesus. Need Godly leaders to represent the Truth and stand up for the faith that was founded by our forefathers... thank you*:)

    November 4, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      We collectively asked for it (voted for it) and now we have it. Read Lamentations - you are looking at it.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Matthew

      Zeus got all the good followers

      November 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Matthew

      And this faith founded by our forefathers... I'm gonna need citations.

      November 5, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  12. GIJoe

    The eye of that needle is still the same size folks ....................

    November 4, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  13. Rick

    And Jay Carney is paid to be a press secretary?? Wow....more incompetence from the most radical, incompetent, secretive, and corrupt administration in the history of the US.

    This is what happens when most of the main stream media is in bed with the liberals and does not do its job in properly vetting candidates. This was all very predictable 3 to 3.5 years ago.....we've gotten what the majority voted for. Heaven help us in 2012.

    November 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, the drama. As if misquoting some book is the biggest faux pas EVER in the annals of the presidency.

      You're an idjit.

      November 4, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Amen to that. He will shred whats left in the next term. Lame duck - no constraints.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Got crystal balls, do you, Clyde?

      It's a year until the election, Assandra. Whoops. Forgot the "C".

      November 5, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • aerix88

      I like how you (and most of the other detractors) fail to read the part of the story where a lot of people, including pastors, misquote the Bible.

      The problem is that conservatives only want to focus on a few aspects of the Bible, such as slavery, keeping women in their place and thinking that gays are the Devil. Liberals want to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, even if they don't necessarily follow him religiously; where are the conservatives who want to help their fellow man, instead of making the rich richer?

      For Heaven's sake...

      November 5, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  14. Quinn

    Wow - slow news day? There must be paint drying somewhere you could go live to, no?

    November 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  15. 4Jesus

    There is no such phrase anywhere in the Holy Bible.

    November 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      November 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Docmtc50

      4Jesus – Did you even bother to read the article?

      November 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      My little shadow is playing doctor again.

      November 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  16. linton

    Republicans would crucify Jesus all over again for kicking the money changers out of the Temple

    November 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Docmtc50

      You've got that right! Someone recently said that if a Republican saw Jesus walking on water he/she'd say, "Humph! The guy can't even swim!"

      November 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Since the Democrats do not believe in Jesus WHY are they talking about Him as though they did? It just reveals what lying hypocrites you really are. .. talk about Mao walking on water or Ho Chi Minh ... at least you believe in THEM.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Lots of Democrats believe in Jesus, RTC. Only in the fantasy worlds of conservative Republicans and liberal atheists is that not true.

      November 4, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      That's a laugh–Clod calling someone else a hypocrite. Did you turn your oh-so-discerning eye on Bush or Reagan when they were the buffoons in the Oval Office? I'll bet you worshipped every word they spewed, didn't you, Clod?

      November 5, 2011 at 10:13 am |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.