Subscribe for 17¢ / day

HELENA - In his opening speech Monday, House Minority Leader Scott Sales read eight quotations attributed to Abraham Lincoln - but it turns out the former president never uttered the words.

"I've been duped," Sales said after the Gazette State Bureau provided articles showing these quotes were falsely attributed to Lincoln. "I got them off the Internet."

Because he got the quotes off the Internet, Sales said he was careful in his speech to say the remarks were "attributed" to Lincoln and didn't directly say that Lincoln said them.

Still, the Bozeman Republican apologized for his lack of "due diligence" in checking the quotes and said he would rise on a point of personal privilege in the House today to apologize. "It wasn't my intention to mislead," he said.

Ironically, Sales said, some of his fellow House Republicans liked the quotations so much that they have requested copies of them. On Thursday he made copies of the articles explaining that Lincoln never said the remarks.

In making the mistake, Sales was in good company, however: Ronald Reagan, then a former president, made the same misattribution in 1992 at the Republican National Convention, according to The New York Times.

The quotes are a series of "cannot" statements attributed to Lincoln, such as:

"You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong."

"You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer."

"You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred."

In an Internet article titled, "Lincoln Never Said That," the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency said these sayings were written by William J.H. Boetcker, a Presbyterian minister and outspoken political conservative who lived from 1873 to 1962. In 1916, Boetcker wrote a pamphlet called "The Ten Cannots," with the 10 sayings now misattributed to Lincoln, including the eight used by Sales in his speech Monday.

In 1942, a conservative political group, the Committee for Constitutional Government, published a brochure with an authentic quote from Lincoln on one side and a list of Boetcker's adages on the other, credited to the minister, according to a 1990 book, "They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes and Misleading Attributions," by Paul F. Boller and John George.

"The publications of Lincoln's and Boetcker's words together, however, caused someone - erroneously or deliberately - to attribute Boetcker's maxims to Lincoln," the book's authors said.

Sales said his grandfather gave him a sheet of paper 35 to 40 years ago with these quotations attributed to Lincoln, but that he eventually misplaced it. He went searching on the Internet for the quotations to use in his opening day speech.