Ivanka uses fake quote to complain about "decline of public morals" behind impeachment

The purported Alexis de Tocqueville quote was actually a paraphrase, from a book arguing in favor of impeachment

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 22, 2019 1:30PM (EST)

Ivanka Trump (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Ivanka Trump (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

White House adviser Ivanka Trump attempted to defend her father as the impeachment inquiry continues by tweeting a quote she wrongly attributed to famed 19th-century French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville.

"A decline of public morals in the United States will probably be marked by the abuse of the power of impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office,” she tweeted on Thursday, attributing the quote to de Tocqueville’s writing in 1835.

The quote was not by the French diplomat, however. A Frenchman didn't even say it.

The quote actually comes from the 1889 book “American Constitutional Law, Volume 1,” authored by a judge named John Innes Clark Hare. Hare was paraphrasing a quote from Tocqueville on his opposition to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

"It was long since remarked by de Tocqueville that a decline of public morals in the United States will probably be marked by the abuse of the power of impeachment as a means of crushing political adversaries or ejecting them from office," Hare wrote in the book.

But Hare, who mentioned arguments that the power to impeach a president could be abused, was actually arguing in favor of impeachment.

Hare argued that, unlike English law, the president is independent of the legislature and therefore there needed to be "means of removing or punishing an incapable or corrupt president,” so the framers of the Constitution created a system in which the president "might be brought to trial, and if need be, deposed."

Impeachment, he added, "is one of many proofs that the framers of our Constitution ... intended that the traditional checks and balance-wheels of the monarchy should not be wanting in the republic."

The quote was also wrongly attributed to Tocqueville in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the impeachment last month, which is possibly where the president’s daughter found the quote.

Some observers also found irony in Ivanka’s complaints about the “decline of public morals.”

"Trump had affairs with porn stars, ripped off his own charity, pardoned war criminals, is accused of sexual assault and rape, puts children in cages and has lied more than 13,000 times since being in office,” wrote columnist Mike Elgan. “Now his daughter is lecturing the public about morals."

Ivanka has struggled to get quotes right on Twitter, previously posting a Chinese proverb that was not Chinese and misquoting Albert Einstein. Politifact also found that her recent book included a quote falsely attributed to former President John Quincy Adams.

Ivanka also came under criticism recently for tweeting a quote by former President Thomas Jefferson during the impeachment proceedings.

“...surrounded by enemies and spies catching and perverting every word that falls from my lips or flows from my pen, and inventing where facts fail them,” she tweeted, attributing the quote to Jefferson’s “reflections on Washington, D.C. in a letter to his daughter Martha.”

“Some things never change, dad!” she added.

Former reporter Rachel Joy Larris pointed out the irony of Ivanka using that quote.

“It's interesting Ivanka picked this example because the thing Jefferson's enemies were accusing him of -- fathering a child with a slave -- was absolutely something he did,” she tweeted. “6 times as a matter of fact. Jefferson was bemoaning being called out for something he actually did.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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