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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. johnborg

    Sorry, the Bible isn't a capitalist manifesto. Look up the early Christian Church, they were non-governmental communists.

    November 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jim

      You are half-right johnborg.

      The Bible is not a political book but where you erred is by attempting to make the 1st century church into a communist playground.The people gave as others needed (Acts 2), could keep your own if you desired (Acts 6) and many still had quite a bit of wealth like Barnabas

      The problem is that people wish to read into Scripture a political system to find some type of cred for their own personal politicl leanings.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  2. OverIt

    NOT ONE person involved in politics should be quoting the Bible... ever, religion has no place in politics!

    November 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • icreepin

      actually the founding fathers thought religion was very important to creating and running the newly created republic. What they didn't want was for the "church" or any "church" to have the power that the churches in Europe had over the leaders and the people. God is a central foundation in the founding of our country, the creation of our money system, and just about every other core foundation of the USA.

      When you look at how our country was ran up until the 70's and 80's with prayer and the pledge compared to how our country is now, the belief in something higher then what we are is needed to have a well grounded base to have a stronger country as a whole.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Jim

      Sorry about reality Overlt but you are looking to have a different country than the one you live in. Maybe you could move to such a place like Venezuala with Hugo or maybe Cuba with Fidel.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  3. ib42

    Stuck. Badly stuck. Permanently stuck. Stubborn and stuck.
    Of course, 'they' don't know that, because they're STUCK.
    Need the WD40 of open mindedness.

    November 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  4. Phil in KC

    Much ado about nothing. As the author notes, he wrote an entire article about phrases or sayings that people commonly attribute to the bible that aren't really in there. If it were not a common mistake, the author would have had no basis for his article in the first place. So Jay has a lot of company. It was a very good article, by the way. I'd encourage you to follow the link and read it.

    November 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  5. SCAtheist

    Who cares? i"The Lord is burning 10 billion souls in hell forever as we speak."

    November 4, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Jim

      Such a sad little uinformed reply....Peace beto you SCA.

      November 4, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  6. ib42

    This is a non story. Period. You just want to tout your book.

    November 4, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  7. Nancy, CA

    Frankly, I'm more concerned with all of the phony Christian Republicans than I am Jay Carney's mistake!!!!!!!!

    November 4, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  8. 2026

    so what he misquoted.... who gives a flying f... about it other then a republican. Get us some real news CNN!!!

    November 4, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  9. Buford

    Who cares if it is or isn't in the bible. Keep the bible and "god" out of government like it is supposed to be. I'm not a christian so it shouldn't be talked about by my government who is not allowed to push a religion on anyone.

    November 4, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  10. Larry

    WHO CARES! Keep religion out of politics. No one is going to help us by ourselves. Oh wait, there comes some of that fairy dust from the heavens to bring us jobs.

    November 4, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  11. boocat

    Who cares? The Bible is just another book of fables and fiction.

    November 4, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  12. JiminTX

    The Magic Book of Makebelieve is as accurate as Wikipedia, and as often edited to fit our whims. Thus who cares what is supposedly or not supposedly in it?

    November 4, 2011 at 8:32 am |
    • Greg s

      Strange that the those three thousand year old Bible Scrolls they found and that are now available for revue match our Bible exactly, But when it comes to discrediting the Bible Lying is a requisite!

      November 4, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • steven harnack

      @greg, a 2 thousand year old copy of "The Iliad" might match a contemporary version too but they would both still be fantasy.

      November 4, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Anakaraya

      actually Wikipedia is more accurate.

      November 4, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  13. Asklepios417

    "The “Lord helps those who help themselves” is actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation’s founding fathers."

    The idea originated among the pagan Greeks.

    Sophocles wrote, "Heaven never helps the men who will not act."

    November 4, 2011 at 6:45 am |
    • Asklepios417

      Euripides: "Try first yourself, and after call in God; for to the worker God himself lends aid."

      And in one of Aesop's fables, a man thrown into the sea in a shipwreck, calls out loudly for Athena to save him from drowning. Another man, swimming past him, says "Don't leave it all to Athena, friend. Use your arms as well."

      November 4, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • Guest

      Great respect for your research...

      November 4, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  14. WOT

    The slave master misquoted the Bible, when slaved married: they left out till death do you part!

    November 4, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  15. Timespanr

    I would like to point out something to all of you Christians.
    Jesus was born a Jew, from age 4-12 he study to be a Rabbi, at age 12 he was preaching in the Temple in Palestine
    after some period of time, up until he was say 27-32, while he was still a Jew, he was put to death at the bequest of
    the Head Rabbi. The Jews didnot like his constant criticism of there ways. So the choice between a Murder & Jesus was an easy one, the Murderer went free.
    If it were not for Saul (Paul) becoming the Romam Pope
    and doing a re write on the Bible in 324 AD where would all of you Christians be?
    Check it out, over half of the New Testiment is written by one (1) man
    and done so with all of His conjecture on life and what was necessary to attrack people to the RC faith.

    November 4, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Jimtanker

      Or at least thats what the fairy tale says.

      November 4, 2011 at 1:58 am |
    • Greg s

      Of course we should just chunk our Bibles and Follow Timespanr because he knows all and see's all!

      November 4, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • jeff, alabama

      you just provided info right from the bible.
      You think THAT makes you special ?
      Maybe you should actually meet and talk to
      some Christians. You see... we already knew all
      that.....GEEZE !!!!!!!!!! LIBERALS !!!!!!!!!!

      November 4, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Jim

      Nice rant but your opinion isn't based on actual history or facts. Your opinion is duly noted as based in ignorance though.

      There was no Bible accepted as one book or canon in 324 AD so you cannot re-write something that didn't existas a book.

      ANyone can find that out with about 5 seconds and a history search....

      November 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  16. Timespanr

    the most unread and mis understood book in the History of Christianity, the Bible, so please donot be to hard on the Guy.
    Everyone elses is forever putting word in Jesus's Mouth or changing what he said or did in some way!
    It would be nice to go threw one day with out another editorial of the Bible!

    November 4, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  17. Jimtanker

    It's just so easy to miquote something that is such obvious tripe.

    November 4, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Jim

      Yes, Aesop's Fables are a bit of tripe aren't they?

      November 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  18. kimsland

    "Jacob said, 'I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'" (Genesis 32:30)
    "No man hath seen God at any time." (John 1:18)

    We should fear God (Matthew 10:28)
    We should love God (Matthew 22:37)
    There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18)

    And Jesus said, "For judgement I am come into this world." (John 9:39)
    "I came not to judge the world" (John 12:47)

    "For I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever." (Jeremiah 3:12)
    "Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn forever." (Jeremiah 17:4)

    Seriously this just goes on and on and on.

    November 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • kimsland

      Oh, I forgot to write the holly bible is pathetic and should NOT be followed.
      Actually I'm pretty sure it was written as a joke book. I get it Ha Ha Ha.

      November 3, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      So does taking verses out of context to try to prove a false point .You are a loser.

      November 4, 2011 at 7:03 am |
    • OnLooker

      Proof texting won't help your argument. Nice try

      November 4, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Greg s

      You can pull one line from any paragraph in any book and make it say what ever you want it to say, you have shown yourself a fool is all.

      November 4, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • claybigsby

      "You can pull one line from any paragraph in any book and make it say what ever you want it to say, you have shown yourself a fool is all."

      exactly what retarded christians do all of the time. Fact is your book was written by 30+ people over 1500+ years. The people who wrote about jesus never knew him. this book was not written by god, but by mere mortals, who said they were inspired by god.

      November 4, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • steven harnack

      I guess that a bunch of schizophrenics WILL follow a schizophrenic manual, eh? If it's all supposed to be the direct word of your god, you were just shown how contradictory those words are and you get all huffy, well, it just shows why most of you act completely opposite of what you profess. Oh yeah, and those voices that you say that you hear.

      November 4, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Jim

      As a scholar would say, "A text without a context is a pretext for a fool-s text"

      November 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Dr.K.

    Maybe we invent quotations because the real biblical quotes are too messed up to use. I give you:

    "And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat." (Lev. 26:29)

    Go ahead, be inspired. Feel the love...

    November 3, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Brandon

      That quotation (put in context) is a threat of what will happen if the Jews don't follow god.

      November 4, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Jimtanker

      Sounds like an all loving god to me. NOT!!!

      November 4, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • claybigsby

      "That quotation (put in context) is a threat of what will happen if the Jews don't follow god."

      exactly why the book is full of s...hit

      November 4, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Jim

      Another fool's text, cut-n-paste job...

      That passage was a warning to the Israelis that if they decided to flip God the finger for centuries after He gave them the land, that they would end up in that situation. According to the actual history of Israel, this is exactly what happeed during the Babylonian seige before Jerusalem fell.

      God makes agreement with the Hebrews that He would give them the land and they would prosper as long as they didn't basically flip the Owner the finger and destroy His land and be unjust with people.

      God gives them this warning quoted by drk.

      The Israelis flip God the bird and defile the land and treat each other unjustly.

      As predicted, Babylonians come and make war on Israel and Judah (2 separate nations at that point) and lay a well over a year seige to the city so no food goes in or out.

      The people end up turning to cannibalism (as people have done in almost every culture when the situation gets that bad).

      Case closed and drk is shown to be bumping the gums without a clue.

      So...we are stuck with the stubborn reality that you and others like you who know little and understand even less continue to bump your gums ignorantly and as usual – you folks keep coming up with nothing of any substance.

      November 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  20. hippypoet

    the most misquoted book in history, the bible, so much so that cnn.com has an article on it!

    November 3, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.