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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. Jeff

    Oh, how did he do such a thing??? What was he thinking??? Did he get fired? Burned at the stake??? This is the most terrible atrocity I have ever heard of...

    I mean really! This is the best news you have???

    November 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • mike

      duh, this is CNN after all. People don't come here for "news", silly.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  2. mike

    In other news, Obama gave Solyndra $500m and then it disappeared... :::POOF:::

    November 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  3. bobmc

    Oh Stop, everyone knows Ben Franklin worte the Bible. or a least printed it.

    November 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  4. Grumpy

    This is non-news at it's best/worst. It rates up there with Lindsey Lohan's legal troubles and Kim Kardashian's marriage. Now, Herman Cain's harrassment problems are REAL news!!!!! LOL!

    November 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • mike

      duh, this is CNN after all. People don't come here for "news", silly.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  5. Gassy Pants

    Anyone know where the closest bathroom is?

    Atheists suck 🙂

    November 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  6. chris

    “Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.”
    ― St. Ignatius of Loyola (slightly ahead of Ben Franklin)

    November 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  7. Bob

    We should be angry he's trying to quote the Bible, not angry that he actually isn't.

    November 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  8. Josh D

    To emphasize what Charmaine said above, it doesn't freaking matter who said it. What matters is that we take responsibility for our actions , and use our god-given (if that's your belief) abilities to discuss these problems rationally and come up with an equitable compromise and solution. That's what congress used to do, that' what the majority of Americans trying to be heard over the noise still want us to do. How about a quote from Willie Shakespeare: "Our fault, Dear Brutus, is not in our stars." The longer we don't work together and figure this out the further we fall behind. You think we have problems now like oil dependency, how about when we start running out of water-seen Lake Mead lately?

    November 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  9. mike

    "White House press secretary Jay Carney made a common mistake when he tried quoting the Bible."

    Common mistake? LOL love how CNN does their best to protect the Obamafailures

    November 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  10. Kankles

    OBAMA CAN EAT SHlT!!!!!!!!
    SO CAN ALL MORONS COMMENTING ON THIS BOARD, WHICH IS 95% ATHEISTS.

    November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • J.W

      Wow you seem angry

      November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • mike

      omg racist teabagger omgzzzzz teagbagarggaz racistomg

      November 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • DarrellS

      Well, what's a Religious Blog doing on a NEWS website anyways? Just like Politics and Religion, News and Religion shouldn't mix, either!

      November 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Jeff

      How's that Shi+ tasting???

      November 3, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  11. Grumpy

    What do people expect? The boy is just a political employee! The quote, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, may also be found in the non-existent text of "that ain't in the Bible" phrases, The Book of Hezekiah. That's the text I always sight, anyway.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  12. mike

    Hahaha more Obama incompetence nice, but not surprising.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • John Zurich

      I would utilize the word "incompetence" when describing numerous issues, but a misquote of a religious book? Get a life Mike.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  13. Reality

    The phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is a popular motto which emphasizes the importance of self-initiative.

    "The phrase originated in ancient Greece, occurring as the moral to one of Aesop's Fables (620 and 560 BCE), and later in the great tragedy authors of ancient Greek drama. It has been commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, however the modern English wording appears earlier in Algernon Sidney's work."

    November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Rob

    This is news? Really? REALLY?

    November 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Denver

    The phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is a popular motto which emphasizes the importance of self-initiative.
    The phrase originated in ancient Greece, occurring as the moral to one of Aesop's Fables, and later in the great tragedy authors of ancient Greek drama
    The first lines from wikipedia

    November 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Gimsy

      You get your info from Wikipedia? And you think info in there is correct? Ah ha ha ha ha ha.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Eddie A

    Ugh. Who gives a crap.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • You

      apparently people who leave comments

      November 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  17. Foreverwar

    Good thing that reading stupid bible quotes is not his job I guess.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Jose

      I thought the Repubs were going to go after him for this.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  18. Anthony

    Religion teaches people to be peaceful, forgiving and understanding. Whether you believe in God or not, how can those teachings be a bad thing? It's nice to know politicians try to keep God in their lives. It's unfortunate that our country makes such an effort to exclude God. While our economy worsens and people struggle to feed and shelter their families, my church takes up an emergency fund, food pantry, clothing drives, shelter and even takes runs into Manhattan to feed and cloth the homeless. I can understand why people have some issues with organized religion, but you should be open-minded enough to see some of the very positive things that come out of religion.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Reality check

      Religion also teaches intolerance to those who do not share the same beliefs. Hence the reason wars have been closely tied to religous beliefs touted as "holy wars"

      November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • allanhowls

      God told Abraham to kill his son. The Bible tells us to "spare the rod and spoil the child." God encouraged the Hebrews to wage war and kill in his name. The same God, mind you, that demanded blood sacrifice.

      Please stop cherry-picking; religion has always found ways to justify violence that benefits its own ends. Love comes from individuals encountering other individuals without bias; hate comes from organized groups who divide the world into "us" and "them."

      November 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Lydia

      Amen.
      An agnostic.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Piero

      God commanded Abraham to kill his son but when he obeyed, his son was spared. This was to show people the sacrifice HE made when His own son, Jesus, was sacrificed. It shows how much more He is willing to do for us as a parallel. A study of the bible and an understanding might make your criticisms more valuable if you knew what you were saying. Of course if you understood you wouldn't criticize.

      November 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  19. JHL

    Slow news day if this makes it

    November 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  20. Austin

    If you're going to write an article about someone misquoting something, you might want to proofread your own story, too.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:48 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.