Putting words in someone's mouth

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Putting words in someone's mouth is the practice of misquoting someone deceptively. Rather than a legitimate paraphrase, it distorts the quotation so that it has a significantly different meaning. This tactic is most commonly used by Liberals.


A liberal group calling itself "People for the American Way" misquoted Star Parker twice in one short article:

  1. It said she attributed all American ills to sexual promiscuity and immorality
    • But one sentence later they contradict their own exaggeration by revealing that she said only that these "lead to" the top three social crises: (AIDS, abortion, and the welfare state). [1]
  2. Only by reducing our “sexual energy,” Parker claims, can we produce “economic health as well as moral health”
    • Linked directly below that was an audio clip, in which Parker actually said, "We have an obligation to be responsible with the choices that we make every day, especially when it comes to our sexual energy. It's critical to rescue our country, to get us on a track of economic health as well as moral health ..."
    • They conflated reducing with being responsible. Compare the small print in liquor ads saying, "Drink responsibly". They could only mean something like "Don't drink and drive" or "No drinking the night before school or work." Does anyone think they mean to use less of their product?

What it is not

Telling people that a character in "Casablanca" said "Play it, again, Sam" is not deceptive ... even though the exact wording was "Play it, Sam. ... for old time's sake." The character was indeed asking Sam to play the song which he had played before (i.e., again). To call this a misquotation would be an exaggeration; at worst, it would be a poor paraphrase.

See also