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. John


    November 3, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  2. Emilio Dumphuque

    This would only be noteworthy if he was a priest, preacher, minister, pastor, evangelist, etc. They're supposed to know their scripture and quote it accurately.

    November 3, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • D. Brown

      That was a quote from one of our Founding Fathers – one which was not a religious man.

      November 3, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  3. Bob MacKinnon

    Well, once again, CNN staff writer, John Blake has hit the nail on the head with his "ear to the Word" reporting.

    There can be no doubt now that the President's as well as his cabinet's and press secretary's

    Eighth Grade Bible Studies Report Çards should be made public 🙂



    November 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, if YOU say so, then it MUST be done!


      November 3, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • claybigsby

      sad that the only thing you care about is our government quoting the bible correctly....sigh, I guess thats more important than getting the world back on track.

      November 4, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  4. NoMerrrrceee

    Impeach Obama for impersonating a christian and overstepping the separation between church and state. Press secretary needs to be reeducated. Plagiarism abound! Have you no sense of decency? We need to take government out of personal lives and religion too. No more funny stuff or quotes about dog, This all has to end here. No more qwoates [sic )

    November 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  5. grumpy

    Not being able to quote the bible is a sure indicator of intelligence.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  6. binary

    This is news worthy...why?

    November 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  7. Name*Chedar

    "What goes around comes around like a boomerang"
    Guess which scripture it comes from. The law of Physics.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  8. Dan J

    The press has been pretty forgiving about this. When Michelle Bachmann couldn't remember Elvis's birthday, she was torn to shreds and made banner headlines.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  9. Descarado

    Come now, the weenieboygamer/losers could care less about the word of God.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • claybigsby

      lol your internet muscles are showing....bada$$

      November 4, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  10. chip

    Most "Christians" don't even bother to read the Bible, so it's no surprise a godless IiberaI would misquote it.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Synapse

      Chip- the moral code followed by liberals is closer to the philosophy of Christ, than conservatives are. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars, Only time violent? [when people were using the Temple to make money, turn the other cheek... Oh – "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle- than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven [not EXACT quote]

      November 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  11. Mike

    This guy is no Ari Fleischer that's for sure.

    That said, this simple misquote is not worthy of an article.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  12. Synapse

    Kinda like Boehner misquoting President Obama...
    Carney misquoted the Bible- STONE HIM TO DEATH !!!

    November 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  13. Lou

    Of course, that is what happens when you have Athiests running the country that only remember the Bible or GOD when it is convenient for them to quote it. This one backfired – so off to Bible School you should go...

    November 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind

      The people running the country are not atheists . . . unfortunately. If they were, we wouldn't have all this hate-filled rhetoric and my-way-or-the-highway bee ess filling the halls of congress and the White House. But just try getting elected to any office in this country while admitting to atheism and see how far you get. Do you really believe that all the GOP candidates are any more sincere in their beliefs than the current administration? If so, there's this bridge i'd like to sell you . . .

      November 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Godless

      Atheists are statistically smarter, more affluent, and have a better knowledge of religious texts than their Christian counterparts. If Atheists ran America, then why is God on our money? Or in our Pledge of Allegiance? And what about the Declaration of Independence? I hope for the sake of America and the world that you haven't reproduced any offspring.

      November 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Ned Nickerson and Nancy play golf with Mortimer

      "off to bible school" ? Hahaha. And there you will learn nothing for sure.

      November 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  14. Boo-ya!

    Also, you must have meant "founding", you BAFOON!

    November 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  15. Mark C

    News bulletin: President paraphrases Ben Franklin! Press Secretary not a biblical scholar! Film at 11!

    November 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Leaf on the Wind


      November 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  16. idontthinksotim

    So there is a difference between the phantasmagoric phrases that are actually IN the bible vs. these "phantom bible quotes" as you say? It's all make believe so what's the difference, really? Do people get self righteous when they correct people that say "Play it again, Sam" when the actual movie quote is "Play it, Sam." No, because really no one cares because the GIST of it is there. We get the intended meaning which is what is really important, regardless of whether or not its a real "perscripture" as Medea would say.

    November 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  17. Evik James

    Just was a founding father, right?

    November 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • dudley0415

      Franklin was not a believer but spoke well of the good churches do and monetarily supported several of them.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  18. EdgarX

    The bible is a waste of perfectly good paper.

    November 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • somehow

      As is your comment.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • dudley0415

      ...but in turn it says that even you are worthwhile and worthy of God's love and salvation, and urges those who believe to be kind to you, speak well of you and to help you if you need it. The only thing you can't fix is denying the existence of the Spirit. Other than that, anyone can be sure of God's grace; even you. I encourage you to consider it.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Boo-ya!

      I like chicken and beef fajitas!

      November 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Matt

      His paper didnt waste a shred of paper.. it's a digital comment...

      November 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Matt

      and by paper, of course i meant comment*

      November 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Sal

      If you are printing put everyone's CNN comments on paper, there is something wrong with you. How the hell can a digital comment waste paper?

      November 3, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Dan J

      And your existence is a waste of air.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • claybigsby

      "I encourage you to consider it."

      And I encourage you to consider that you do not know everything in the universe and cannot prove your christian god is the one true god. you can only speculate. Until you come to terms with the fact that you dont know anymore than I do, you will continue to blindly follow

      November 4, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  19. jsv

    This is walter vettivel;The man just beyond your imagination and power.

    November 3, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • SV

      No one except a couple of middle aged Indian Tamils understood your comment. 🙂

      November 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  20. HIH

    these bafoons would not know Jesus or a founder father if they were in the same room

    November 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Boo-ya!

      That's "buffoon", you bafoon!

      November 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • idontthinksotim

      But someone who calls the legitimately elected leader of the free world a "bafoon" is someone that would know Him? I don't think so Tim. first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

      November 3, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
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