President Obama gave a speech in Roanoke, Va., on July 13th. It was telecast by C-SPAN, and the White House issued a transcript of the speech, so there's no difficulty in checking wording, either in video or print.
Here is what the president actually said, word for word, as taken from the transcript, which matches the video 100 percent.
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn't -- look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that [road or bridge]. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
The next day, Fox News headlined "Obama Insults Small Business Owners," and Todd Starnes "reported:" "President Obama insulted small business owners during a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va., on Saturday. 'If you've got a business - you didn't build that,' Obama told the crowd. 'Somebody else made that happen.'"
Obama's phrase, "you didn't build that" -- which the president has repeatedly said was meant to refer to roads and bridges -- was presented to make it look as if he were saying, "you didn't build your business."
Fox News then repeated the same attack for the next two days.
The Romney campaign's main commercial now was "These Hands." Here it is:
OBAMA: "If you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
SMALL BUSINESSMAN: "My father's hands didn't build this company? My hands didn't build this company? Through hard work and a little bit of luck, we built this business. Why are you demonizing Us? ... We need somebody who believes in America."
MITT ROMNEY: "I'm Mitt Romney, and I approved this message."
CNN then headlined, on July 19th, "Romney Drives a Truck Through Obama's 'Build That' Remark," and CNN Political Producer Shawna Shepherd "reported" on "an owner in charge of a family business who challenges Obama's claim that his family did not build their business on their own."
On July 21st, the Romney campaign website headlined "A Clear Choice," and Romney himself wrote: "President Obama recently said, 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.' ... Comments like that are a slap in the face to the American dream."
Should Obama be blamed for having spoken as he did? In context, it's clear that he was referring to "roads and bridges" when he said "you didn't build that." But Republican media and Republican politicians don't deal with that. The context is ignored, not discussed. Are they intentionally misrepresenting his speech? Are they lying about it? What do you think?
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
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