John Leo
Maybe we should give an award for mangled quotation of the year. Misquotations are becoming a regular feature of journalism and politics, partly out of carelessness but mostly because anything-goes partisanship so deeply afflicts our discourse.

So here are the nominees for the first award:

(1) The Associated Press for butchering a line from Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in the Texas sodomy decision. The AP quoted Scalia as saying he has "nothing against homosexuals." This misquote was endlessly recycled in news stories and commentaries, usually to mock Scalia for a gay version of "some of my best friends are Jews."

What Scalia actually wrote was this: "I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means." He wasn't offering his feelings about gays (he is on the non-touchy-feely wing of the court). He was talking about the rights of all groups to organize and lobby.

(2) Maureen Dowd, for her quote from President Bush saying that al-Qaida and the terrorist groups of 9/11 are not a problem any more. ("That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. ... They're not a problem any more." -- Dowd's version of Bush in her New York Times column of May 14).

Here is the full Bush quote, without the three misleading dots: "Al-Qaida is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely, being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al-Qaida operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem any more."

(3) The BBC, probably the most relentlessly anti-American organization in Britain, recently altered a transcript of one of its own stories, thus misquoting itself. The story dealt with Park Jong-lin, a 70-year-old veteran of the Korean War who "served in the North Korean army fighting against the imperialist American aggressors and their South Korean accomplices." In the altered version quote marks now surround "imperialist American aggressors" and the BBC's reference to "accomplices" was changed to "allies."

Prediction: Because Internet bloggers now watch the wayward BBC carefully, more touched-up transcripts will come to light. The BBC, by the way, falsely reported the Jessica Lynch rescue as a made-for-TV special faked with U.S. soldiers firing blanks for the cameras. (Change that transcript!)

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

Be the first to read John Leo's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.