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You know how Sarah Palin said Paul Revere warned the British? Well, he did. Now, who looks stupid?

Sarah Palin

You may have heard recently something about that Sarah Palin telling a reporter that Paul Revere warned the British on his famous rousing revolutionary ride.

Now, that so many Americans have wallowed in their smug confirmation that Palin is an idiot unqualified for anything but Paul Revere thinks about something paulreverefactsdotcomrepeating sixth-grade history, how far, wide and fast do you think the contradictory news will spread that the former governor of Alaska was indeed correct?

That the Republican non-candidate, in fact, knew more about the actual facts of Revere's midnight ride than all those idiots unknowingly revealing their own ignorance by laughing at her faux faux pas? How secretly embarrassing this must be, to be forced to face that you're dumber than the reputed dummy.

As it happens, though, such phenomena are regular occurrences in American politics, reminding consumers of news to be wary when some fresh story seems to fit contemporary assumptions so absolutely perfectly.

The well-known fable is Revere's late-night ride to warn fellow revolutionaries that....

...the British were coming. Less known, obviously, is the rest of the evening's events in which Revere was captured by said redcoats and did indeed defiantly warn them of the awakened militia awaiting their arrival ahead and of the American Revolution's inevitable victory.

Palin knew this. The on-scene reporters did not and ran off like Revere to alert the world to Palin's latest mis-speak, which wasn't.

Like a number of famous faux gaffes in American politics, the facts of the situation no longer really matter.

The initial impression was eagerly grabbed by so many, starting with the reporter and millions of others gleefully sharing the story that reinforced their beliefs and/or desires.

This phenomenon is actually not a new one in American politics, although its immediate spread is obviously hastened by the Internet. Speaking of which, Al Gore did not invent it. Nor did he claim to, as often as you've heard otherwise.

In 1999, the hapless former journalist, who should have known to make a better word choice, told CNN that in Congress he "took the initiative in creating the Internet."

Democrat Gore never used the word "invented." That was part of another willful misinterpretation that fit expectations of Gore's boasts and was gleefully spread by opponents as further proof of his unseemly hubris. It lives on to this day.Sarah Palin boards her bus 6-1-11

Perhaps you remember how one day during a photo op President George H.W. Bush was overheard asking a store checkout clerk how this price scanner thing worked?

That quote was immediately transmitted as proof of how disconnected that Republican chief executive was, that he had no knowledge of something as ordinary as a checkout scanner.

The fact is, asking such inane and often obvious questions as "what are you doing here?" is a bipartisan ploy used by politicians to fill the awkward time void they are hanging around someone working while photographers snap their photos several hundred times.

President Obama likely said much the same thing last Friday in that Toledo Chrysler plant when for the benefit of nearby photographers he feigned interest watching assembly-line worker Anthony Davis install a dashboard instrument panel. (See photo below)

A classic example of this faux faux pas was in 1992 when Vice President Dan Quayle agreed to participate in a New Jersey classroom spelling bee.

Working from a placard, Quayle corrected one sixth-grader by telling him to add an "e" to "potato." Journalists gleefully noted the spelling misteak. And Quayle's dunce hat was glued in place.

Trouble is, that mis-spelled placard was actually written out by the classroom teacher herself, either through her own ignorance or, a few suspect, some sly political set-up. Quayle knew he hadn't written it and thought the error was the point of the lesson.

And because the classroom spelling bit was a last-minute addition, aides who would have foreseen the everlasting damage of their boss inexplicably adding a mistake to a student's work did not know what the placard said. Quayle subsequently forbade them from explaining the error to the media, for fear of embarrassing the teacher.

One of the immutable laws of public communications in politics and other fields is, if you have to explain something, you lose. Seeking to explain you were for something before being against it simply digs a deeper Obama watches Chrysler employee anthony davis work on assembly line 6-3-11hole.

This time the mistake for Palin, who used to be accused of dodging reporters' questions, was bothering to answer such an amateur media gotcha question in a noisy, moving crowd. Better would have been a simple dismissive and cheery, "You're kidding, right?" Such are the ongoing lessons for primary candidates. Which she isn't now, of course.

Early in a previous race for the Republican presidential nomination almost 12 years ago, then Texas Gov. George W. Bush was in a jammed New Hampshire airport meeting room, answering questions from local media. Apropos of nothing, one reporter (perhaps prompted by an opponent's camp) asked Bush his pre-written gotcha: Name the new president of Pakistan.

Obviously, Pervez Musharraf had nothing to do with New Hampshire issues and is similar to some Democratic candidates flubbing the name of Russia's then prime minister during 2008 debates (Dmitry Medvedev).

Bush didn't know the Pakistani leader's name that day and looked clumsy attempting to answer. He could have brushed it away by instantly asking the reporter some arcane political who's-who, laughing off their mutual ignorance and quickly taking the next question. But he didn't and took media lumps for several days.

As everyone now knows, such a splashy gaffe can effectively doom any chance a candidate has of winning two terms in the White House.


Sarah Palin plays the media like a violin; They'll try to get even

Piper Palin shares her Mom's hot/cold attitude toward the media

Mitt Romney leads in Iowa poll, Sarah Palin comes in second, Ron Paul falls to 7th

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters; Gary Hershorn / Reuters; Jeff Kowalsky / EPA (Obama at Chrysler, June 3).

Comments () | Archives (805)

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You are the one who looks stupid. Palin said that Revere set off on his ride to warn the British and mentioned nothing of Revere intending to warn Americans of the British coming. Because he was apprehended and threatened with death in order to reveal the nature of his ride does not mean that he originally set out to warn the British.

Palin's still wrong. All the articles have her quoted as saying Revere was riding to warn the British, when he wasn't at all. The news articles you're dismissing all pointed out that Revere wasn't riding to warn the British, he was riding to not be captured and they all wrote that he warned them after getting captured. You yourself state that he was captured, and that's when he warned them of their imminent defeat. Revere was trying to avoid them, so Palin's statements are still misinformed.

The author of the article doesn't even know what Palin said. She said nothing about Revere getting captured and defiantly telling the British of their plans. She said Revere set out to warn the British, which is obviously not true.

Tell me this didn't appear in the La. Time print section. Do you know how many dedicated leftists are going to spit up their coffee into their plates when they read it?

"Palin knew this." No she didn't. You give her too much credit. She was just blathering on mindlessly like she usually does.

Nice try Andrew. What about the "ringin' the bells and firin' warning shots". Palin had just listened to a guide talking about Paul Revere, but she obviously wasn't listening closely or comprehending well, so she regurgitated a mangled version. Completely consistent with the mental abilties of someone who had to attend five colleges to get an undergraduate degree, and not the sort of person you want to have a finger of your nuclear aresenal. Her denial of the mistake just makes it worse.

spelling misteak

Nice TRY. She didn't know of these facts stated in the above article...if the facts are indeed true @ ALL. I do not feel he was riding to "warn" the British...and you've stated (author) ...apparently...he warned them AFTER his capture.
Bottom line.....she's STILL historically brainless. She's smart about making money...I will give her that! But come on....again, ANDREW....nice try to defend her. She's already called this a "gotcha" question BTW...

You make valid points concerning taking things out of context. Palin's current verbal mishaps ought to be judged within the context of all the nonsensical statements she has uttered previously. Just because she happened to be right about Revere doesn't mean she intended to. It is odd that all of a sudden she displays factual knowledge through her stammering when she has hardly displayed that before. So she got lucky.

"Journalists gleefully noted the spelling misteak. " Really?

He was riding as swiftly and quietly as possible, without bells, to knock on doors and warn people the British were marching to Concord, to seize the powder and guns stored there, and to take John Adams and John Hancock. Revere was NOT riding to warn the British. That would have been folly and he would have been shot, and his friends would have been captured and all their guns gone. No, you and Sarah Palin have this dead wrong.

Of course, what makes anyone think that the rest of the so-called quote reported about how Revere "set out" to warn the British is correct? See they are willing to print misquotes to get paper sales regardless of the truth. People are also more willing to believe a lie, the more fantastic the more widely believed and spread, instead of a dull and boring truth.

What is really not being printed is Palin is a very poor choice for any elected seat, right along with 99% of the rest of the candidates on BOTH sides of the two-party and even "Tea Party" if you will, system. If this is the best America has to offer it is no wonder our country has fallen as far as it has. Damned shame too and the ONLY people to blame are the people electing these crooks, criminals, pathological liars, and hypocrites.

You look as stupid as Sarah!

"Working from a placard, Quayle corrected one sixth-grader by telling him to add an "e" to "potato." Journalists gleefully noted the spelling misteak. And Quayle's dunce hat was glued in place."

I actually am not enjoying a gleeful moment in pointing out your spelling error. It is glaringly apparent in the context of your sentence. I do hope the LAT doesn't work off placards.

You're kidding, right? Palin said "He who warned the, the British that they weren't gonna be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and, um, by making sure that as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free."

That's not at all what happened. Paul Revere didn't ring bells or send warning shots. He didn't ride to warn the British. He got *captured,* yes, and did his best to confuse and frighten the British about what was going on. That's not what Palin was talking about, obviously, and surely *you* don't really believe that, either.

It's not a "gotcha" to expect an American politician to know a very basic question about American history. It's also not a "gotcha" question to expect a presidential candidate to know the names (and much more) about foreign leaders, or any other fact about the world. It's up to the candidate to actually be informed about the world, for heaven's sake.

did the author wilfully misspell the work "mistake" (written as: misteak) in the paragraph about dan quayle or potentially miss it in his gleeful summarizing? super-clever or sloppy copy? methinks the latter...

Sorry Andrew...There was NO gotcha question... "what have you seen and what will you take away from this trip" REALLY? A gotcha question?

At least she got the horse part right and didn't believe that he drove a Dodge Challenger like George Washington in the Chrysler TV ad.

Her intellect makes the typical professional jock look like a Rhodes scholar.

Go back to your source material.

Palin said that Revere warned the British "by riding his horse and ringing them bells".

Your attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear failed.

Too funny--a column about how errors become lodged in the media and public consciousness...lodges its erroneous self.

How meta.

If you were seeking the truth of the matter, Mr. Malcolm, you should have quoted Ms. Palin's actual remarks.

Then it would have been clear that she asserted Mr. Revere rode to warn the British...which, of course, he didn't. He rode to alert the colonists of the British approach. After being captured, he did, indeed, "warn" the British that they would lose this struggle, etc., etc., but that's not what he set out to do.

So now her howler has an apologetic in the LA Times, and we'll hear it forever from the Palinites that "even the LA Times" admits that Ms. Palin was right.

The obnoxious bit of error now lodged in the public media-mind, Mr. Malcolm, is your claim that she was right to say that Paul Revere rode to warn the British.

Nice job.

Palin's comments were the epitome of bumbling semi-literacy. So what if she was accidentally not completely wrong, that is, when given the benefit of the doubt? Typical Malcolm GOP damage control. So desperate to salvage Palin that he's willing to cut Gore some slack. Forget it. There's no "there" there.

This is at least the 4th re-interpretation of Mrs Palin's commentsI have read to "prove" she was correct. She was wrong, period. Revere set out to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that regulars were being sent to arrest them.
Even your defense, Andrew, is based on a most likely apocryphal tale of him defiantly mouthing off to the British , part of the "story" built up around the ride.
A strong woman, one with integrity, would admit her mistake, and move on.
If you had any integrity you would report facts, not try to reinterpret them.
There are lots of actual historians about. Let's defer to them, Andrew.

Total set up, that was a not too clever way to make her look knowledgeable but back fired and even make her looks more idiotic than she really is. But anyone with any common sense knows Sara Palin is ridiculously ignorant

I see! If only we could pull out paul revere like in a woody allen movie and interview him. This is truly absurd.

Did you misspell mistake in a paragraph about spelling on purpose?
Can't tell if "misteak" is a joke or not.

Now, who looks stupid?

Since you asked, you Andrew Malcom the author of this political commentary look stupid now. Contrary to your belief that "the facts of the situation no longer really matter." To those Americans still well enough informed to discriminate what we read, the facts of the situation matter very much...

The facts are that amidst two "uhs" and an "umm", Palin made two false references to bells and another to Revere riding through town firing warning shots (multiple shots, quit a feat from horse back, presumably at a gallop, with powder based firearms).

There may be a seed of truth in that Revere was capture between Lexington and Concord along with two others. However a cursory glance at the video or a quotation make it obvious that this was not her intent, to insinuate otherwise looks pretty stupid.

Incidentally I hope that your "spelling misteak" with reference to Dan Quayle's poor spelling was a intentional pun.

O'Brien is doubleplus good with the appointment of outer party member Andrew Malcolm. Straight from the Malibar front porno division, Andrew's blackwhite reporting to expose the agents of Goldstien hidden within Minitrue and inspires a 8% reduction of crimethink among the paroles.

"Journalists gleefully noted the spelling misteak." Is this ironic or erronic?

Paul Revere and the residents of Massachusetts were ALL British. Revere never would have warned that the 'British' were coming. The militia and the residents in the towns would not have known to whom he was referring!

Odd that Mr. Malcolm did not mention that Obama claimed that there are 57 states in the United States, or that Obama pronounced the word, 'corpsman', as 'corpse-man'. Now, that is plain silly - and he got elected!

At least one.....

If you watch the clip of her speaking her answer it is obvious that she unsure of what she is saying. She has learned over and over again that she can "get away" with being stupid just by looking attractive. I am positive that if she had to take the SAT tomorrow she would not score high enough to get accepted to a 4 year university. I will give her a lot of credit for being vary snarky.

"Less known, obviously, is the rest of the evening's events in which Revere was captured by said redcoats and did indeed defiantly warn them of the awakened militia awaiting their arrival ahead and of the American revolution's inevitable victory." Except what she said was that she rode out to tell them not to take American arms. Not the same thing. Not even close.

What she actually said was:

"We saw where Paul Revere hung out as a teenager, which was something new to learn. And, you know, he who warned the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free."

Classic Palin

...and incidentally, "Obviously, Pervez Musharraf had nothing to do with New Hampshire issues"? Ask the New Hampshire residents who have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan the last 10 years if that still seems true.

Between her Paul Revere comments and her Statue of Liberty comments (and many others) I will have to conclude that she doesn't know what she was talking about and this is a rather crude attempt to spin her glaring lack of knowledge into some sort of "you just don't understand how smart she really is" nonsense.

I don't buy it and I doubt many others will at this point. She's not a serious politician. She can't even be considered a serious commentator. And the media isn't picking on her, look how much coverage she gets. She just blames the media every time she shows just how unqualified she really is.

She is George W Bush without the business experience or the fancy book learnin'. God help us if she were ever elected president.

Evidently Andrew Malcolm is willing to believe that Paul Revere's contribution to history was some revolutionary rant delivered while in custody. If that is what it takes to defend Ms. Palin, it tells us more about Mr. Malcolm (and Ms. Palin) than it tells us about U.S. history.

Paul Revere used bells? Doubt that they could have been heard across the river. At best, Palin grossly mischaracterized Paul Revere's "ride." Besides the real Paul Revere ride was done by William Dawes, not Paul Revere. Most Bostonians know that. (When you start name calling with terms like Lefties, you better include John Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, etc. They were the greatest collection of "Lefties" (i.e., liberals) in the history of the world. Unless, of course, you took American history from Sarah Palin in which case, these fine lefties started the Russian revolution.)

The author of this article is more incompetent than Palin. She said that Revere was "ringing bells" and "firing warning shots" as he "rode through town".

"Now, who looks stupid?"

Sarah Palin AND Andrew Malcolm.

Sarah Palin said, "He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed."

Did Mr. Revere shoot a gun or ring bells while passing homes or villages? NO!

Did Mr. Revere warn the British "as he's riding his horse through town?" NO!

Did Mr. Revere bluster to the British, after being captured, that the colonists would oppose the British soldiers? YES! Was it a warning to the British? Not really. They already knew that the colonists opposed them and that the colonists were armed.

Were the colonists British? YES! They were British subjects who no longer wanted to be British subjects. To this extent, Ms. Palin got it right without realizing it.

So...Revere was ringing bells and firing shots to warn the British. While he was being held captive. He had a gun...and a bell...and he used them to tell the British that they couldn't take our guns and our bells? Seriously...this is what we're going with?

It appears as though you like misteak with your potatoe!

This article is a pathetic strectch. She clearly said that he went out on his "ride through town, blowin' his kazoos, and klangin' his pots and pans" FOR THE PURPOSE of warning the British that they couldn't have our guns.

Everyone who is not an idiot knows this was not the purpose of his mission, nor did he make noises for this incorrect purpose while riding "trhough town".

What the frunk is up with the desperation to defend this moron?

The problem with most bean-sprout munching, Birkenstock-wearing loony lefties is: They didn't know there WAS any American history before Woodstock. And anyway...a dead white male on a horse? Ewwwww, how crass!

Thomas Jefferson advised that the greatest threat to our Democracy is "ignorance!" Thomas Jefferson believed that our nation's survival as an independent democracy absolutely depended upon its success in educating the people. He understood "that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, that knowledge is happiness. "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Sarah Palin represents the 'ignorance' about which Thomas Jefferson warned! Ignorance is eroding our freedom! Conservatives are inflicting a greater terror on America through 'ignorance' than any enemy of this country. Considering Thomas Jefferson's warning, survival of our democracy is in peril because obviously Republicans, represented by
Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and many like-minded Republicans are not educated and America is suffering the consequence of their ignorance! Republicans are synonymous with ignorance, racism and a lack of patriotism! These insidious ingrates are inimical to our Democracy for which many brave people, excluding theirs, fought, sacrificed and died!

so now the times is printing this false article to cover up palin's lies
remove this lie Times- revere was not riding to warn the British.

“He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells, and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

Revere never rang any bells nor did he fire warning shots. Also when Revere was interrogated by the Brits, he lied about our troop size.

And Bush was not just asked about the leader of Pakistan - he was asked about a slew of world leaders and he couldn't get any of them right. The closest he got IIRC was the then leader of Taiwan - Bush answered "Lee", which could have been a lucky guess...

It is Palin's role model that is most threatening to liberals and it is why they become apoplectic and declare her an idiot. But having no scandal, all they can do is throw slime at what they fear most - a new generation of conservative women inspired by the one they now pillory.

One cannot dismiss her poignant articulation of conservatism, and conservatism is the legitimate libertarian view of the Founders. It is not extremist. But it is Palin's views that motivate the schoolboy mocking and incivility.

Her comments and tweets manifest innumerable headlines captivating and mesmerizing even the liberal media - agree or not. They are followed by thousands of trolls recommending each other, claiming Palin is an air head.

Character assassination is a scurrilous tactic. Its progenitor is arrogance, a narcissistic pathos of intolerance for opposing views, intellectual bigotry. Trolls who characterize every disagreement with their agenda as either racist, stupid or phobic are using generalizations that alienate good people who merely disagree over principle.

If we allow character assassination to be effective, then we are the foolish ones. For the politics of personal destruction can neutralize any worthy candidate. It is the greatest weapon of the vacuous.

Palin has enigmatic charisma few understand, a certain something no one can figure out. But without scandal, nanny state advocates are left with assassinating her character or dismissing the fascination as frivolous.

Liberals instinctively fear her role model. She electrifies a stadium with common sense - "Read the bill before you vote," "Stop printing money," "Stop spending our children's future;" she exposes public health rationing panels as "death panels." These truisms are a threat to Big Mother.

She is the female version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Conservative parents identify with her and raise their daughters with the same values, convictions and love for the USA. If elected she would bring with her a wave of new voters and that is how she will overcome her negatives.

But even if never elected, multitudes who identify with her convictions and spirited persona are raising a new generation of young conservatives, especially women; a generation that believes in preserving freedom for posterity. And they are inspired by this American icon.

If we ignore the smearing of Palin, we encourage the scurrilous tactic. And what's worse, is the reinforcing of mean spirited character assassination by writing off good candidates as "having baggage."

My God people, you all realize that everyone living in the colonies at the time were British right?

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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