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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. Pamela Sue Martin

    I just spoke to God and he's okay that the bible gets misquoted from time to time. He's also glad that the McRibb is back.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Nosurprise

      That's exactly what I heard! Boy, he's talking to everyone today.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • UrAverageJoe

      Yeah, well who isn't glad the McRibb is back! I don't think that's clear proof you spoke to God!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Breaking New

    The Bible is irrelevant anyhow

    November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • pfft

      no it's not! now excuse me while i go tend to my herd of sheep in the middle of the desert.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  3. Marc Leger

    http://www.godchecker.com/

    Gods have been worshipped since the dawn of time. America is founded, and that's when the Christian god chose a team. How convenient.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  4. scott

    The bible does not say that,, But it does say "If you don't work you do not eat"....

    November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  5. Sandy

    My God is an awesome God!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • pfft

      which one? Vishnu, Thor, Zeus, Set? Personally, I think Ganesh is the most awesome god, i mean, that dude was like part elephant.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Jean Sartre, Milwauke, WI

      My god can beat your god...

      November 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  6. Pee Wee Morris

    Talk about a slow news day! So the guy got it wrong, let's string the poor guy up and kick him a few times that will teach him to make a mistake!! Geez!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  7. Conserve

    Mr. Blake, get a real job so you can contribute something for once in your life.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  8. Sandy

    God is very much alive. Read the word. I want eternal life dont you?

    November 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Leslie

      They shouldn't quote the bible in the first place! Religion does not belong in politics!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      That's blasphemy against the invisible pink unicorn! You'll never get to live forever in the peace of the cosmic rainbow!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  9. petemg

    Goes to prove Muslim Obama has not read the Bible. Maybe he could quote something from the Koran. Also, it is sad when somebody takes a person at their word. I was always taught to get facts first and discuss later. Not discuss something and then research for facts.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Yes, because when the Press Secretary says something, it's secretly Obama saying it right?

      November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • UrAverageJoe

      The Bible says God is to be the judge, but apparently petemg has proxy! Aren't you lucky God chose you to act on his behalf. lol

      November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • baily

      It was his press secretary, NOT Obama who said it, YOU IGNORANT WRETCH!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Kool

      You are an idiot. Where does it say the Presidents said that?

      November 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • UrAverageJoe

      Hey! Don't be questioning Petemg! Not only does he always get the facts first, but he is speaking on behalf of God! be careful, or he might just judge you, too! Pfssssh!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Nosurprise

      petemg...apparently your upbring has failed you. If had bothered, as you say to "get the facts first", then you wouldn't be calling President Obama a Muslim as he is Christian.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  10. Sandy

    God is the answer to everything!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Marc Leger

      http://www.godchecker.com/

      Which one?

      November 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Agreed! Except for every explained phenomenon in the history of mankind. Besides all those things, yes!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Ford Prefect

      ok so if his the answer what's the question?

      November 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Arthur Dent

      I thought the answer was 49

      November 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • SteverB

      42.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Arthur Dent

      thanks steve

      November 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  11. Jason

    Lump this misquote with the other millions of people who misquote the Bible every day. Move along people...nothing to see here.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  12. Marc Leger

    God is dead.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Marc Leger

      The bible itself is a misquote. Translated thousands of times, change here, change there, change everywhere.

      God was lazy. Therefore, he hired illiterate men to take notes.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • wrob

      We have fragments of the NT from the second century, mere decades after the events they describe, and entire copies from the fourth century are extant.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  13. Sandy

    The Bible is true, as sure as I am very alive a lot of miracles have come my way. God is real and he answers prayer. But you need to have him in your life and be sincere. Life without God is meaningless. We need him now more than ever.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Twifiter

      Are you being serious?? I will tell you now that you can easily have a more meaningful life as an atheist.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Leslie

      You obviously need a crutch!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  14. J

    I can expect the Obama team to misquote something they never read...

    November 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • mb2010a

      And what makes you think they haven't...

      November 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • UrAverageJoe

      I couldn't wait to read the comments to see all you right-wingers questioning his faith! I'm sure that's exactly what Jesus would be doing if he were here today, right? lol

      November 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Leslie

      UnAverageJoe- you are so right regarding the right-wing party!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  15. TG

    The religious leaders of Christendom have not only misquoted the Bible, but have continued to "teach commandments of men as doctrines" and traditions that have no basis in the Bible, but are false. (Matt 15:9) Thus, the "laity" or lay person is given only spiritual "crumbs" by these religious leaders. (Luke 16:21) These then have no grasp of the theme of the Bible, that of the sanctification of God' name Jehovah by mean of God's kingdom.(Matt 6:9,10)

    November 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • USMarine1982

      TG, what your Jehovah's Witness organization fails to tell you is that their interpretation of Scripture is a complete aberration and no serious Christian takes your claims seriously. Do us all a favor and leave the Scripture interpretation to serious scholars who take their job seriously. Oh, and the Jehovah's Witnesses is a high-control cult.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  16. toto

    ‘The Lord helps those Gay Priest who help themselves.' ”

    November 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  17. BriSoFla

    The bible is misquoted by MOSTLY by those who claim to know it and follow it whom are USUALLY REPUKES! Referencing the Bible in modern day and applying it to modern times and our better understanding of the universe, is like using a medical text from 1700 to perform surgery in 2011. In fact if you want to follow the bible you shouldnt be getting modern medical care because at that time, it was believed to be a SIN to cut open the human body because it housed the "soul". Therefore hospitals should deny the religious fanatics and let them die off once and for all. 🙂 SCIENCE BE WITH YOU!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Leslie

      The bible is just a novel.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  18. peick

    What? Politicians are not Bible scholars? It can't be!

    November 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  19. JK

    yawn

    November 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  20. Ching Chang Chong

    Atheists really love to come on here and comment on religious articles everyday. Sorry but I don't go to articles about atheism and belittle that which I don't care about. You guys stoop to name calling, not realizing that while you claim to be smarter, you're clearly portraying yourself as the real ignorant fool.

    Can't argue with an idiot who is also hypocritical. Who is so closeminded, yet claims to be so openminded, the ultimate hypocricy.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • AtheistDude

      Blah Blah Blah!!!

      November 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Answer

      The idiots are the theists who come out of the woodwork to defend their faith at the posting of every article. Every day they need to renew their faith by reading about their religion. Daily religious article that they need to rekindle their dwindling faith. To read uplifting articles that they chose the 'right' religion -aka NOT Islam, not Buddhist, not Paganism, etc.

      It has to be about christianity because they THINK that the BELIEF blog is about ONLY christianity! How ridiculous right? They get all hippity if you mention Halloween (see the last few days). They get especially uppity if CNN features the right of gay people or the LGBT. Explain the idiocy about yourself Ching.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:10 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.