Who among us does not like making up quotes?

Published October 4, 2004 4:58PM (EDT)

Avid New York Times readers probably recognize this quote from the paper of record's campaign coverage: "Who among us does not like NASCAR?"; or perhaps, "Who among us does not love NASCAR?" The paper has attributed some iteration of the quote to John Kerry in several opinion columns and news stories since March, always to make the point that try as he might, John Kerry just doesn't get the common, NASCAR-loving man, and when he tries to adopt a regular-guy persona, the result is laughably unconvincing.

Here are a few examples from the Times:

Maureen Dowd, March 18, 2004: Even when he puts on that barn jacket over his expensive suit to look less lockjaw -- and says things like, "Who among us doesn't like Nascar?" -- he can come across like Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet's pretentious cousin in "Pride and Prejudice."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 30, 2004: To anyone who has listened to Mr. Kerry extemporize at length -- who among us can forget his "Who among us doesn't like Nascar?" remark? -- the thought of the Brahmin from Boston disdaining speechwriters and trying humor seemed odd, shall we say, for the most important address of his career.

Frank Rich, Sept. 5, 2004: Mr. Kerry, having joined the macho game with Mr. Bush on the president's own cheesy terms, is hardly innocent in his own diminishment. From the get-go he's tried to match his opponent in stupid male tricks. If Mr. Bush clears brush in Crawford, then Mr. Kerry rides a Harley-Davidson onto Jay Leno's set. When the Democrat asks "Who among us does not love Nascar?" ..he is asking to be ridiculed as an ''International Man of Mystery."

And to show how ingrained the NASCAR quote has become in the Times' coverage of the Democratic candidate, the headline "Who Among Us Does Not Love Windsurfing?" was used (without further explanation within the story  because at this point, who needed it?) in a Sept. 5, 2004 piece that questioned Kerry's choice of recreational sports.

A couple of weeks ago, a handful of liberal bloggers, including Atrios and Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler, questioned the accuracy of the Kerry quote. A Nexis search (we did one too) found that the "who among us" remark curiously seemed to originate with a Maureen Dowd column. Letters were sent to the Times public editor (we sent one, too). A search was on for some proof that Kerry actually said this. Well, it turns out he never did say it -- that's right, Kerry never made a statement that has now become 2004 campaign legend at the New York Times.

Bob Somerby has the story: "We finally have the full information. Yes, Maureen Dowd invented that fake NASCAR quote -- the comical 'quote' from pretentious old Kerry."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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