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"Hey! That's Not What I Didn't Mean": On What Trump Said in Helsinki

As it turns out, now infamous press conference is one in a long history of innocent miscommunications

President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (Photo: Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

Like many of you, I was surprised to learn that President Trump's disastrous press conference in Helsinki earlier this week was all a misunderstanding! It turns out that the President left out one, single (albeit crucial) word: "not."  What a close call!

Actually, it turns out that this happens all the time.  Many famous lines—from politics, film and literature—are, in fact, misquotes.  Here are just a few examples. Hopefully this will begin to set the record straight.

Just a few examples of things that have been mis-uttered, misstated, misheard, and/or mis-reported…

Richard Nixon: “Actually, I am a crook”

Darth Vader: “Luke, I am not your father.”

George Washington: “I lied.”

Bill Clinton: “I did have sexual relations with that woman …”

Molly Bloom: “…no I said no I won’t no.”

The Terminator: “I’m afraid this is goodbye. I don’t expect I’ll be back.”

Travis Bickle: "Oh! I thought you were looking at me. My bad!"

Louis XIV: “L’etat? Ce n’est pas moi!”

Lady Macbeth: “Spotless!”

Bob Dylan: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Karl Marx: “Workers of the world ... It is what it is!”

Franz Kafka: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he was relieved to find that it was no more than an uneasy dream! Today would be a day like any other.”

Inigo Montoya: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father.  But that was a long time ago.  We’re good!”

Joan Crawford: “I prefer wire hangers.”

Cuba Gooding Jr: “It’s not about the money.”

Roberto Duran II: “Más!”


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Rhett Butler: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about anything but your needs, hopes and dreams - however narcissistic they be!"

Shoeless Joe Jackson: “If you build it, will they come?  I’m going to be frank. There is no way people are going to come to the middle of f-cking Iowa just to see a baseball field.”

Greta Garbo: “I could use some company.”

Mick Jagger: "I am fully satisfied."

George W. Bush: "I'm The Decider…  Not!  Cheney is The Decider!”

Dorothy Gale: "Toto -- it turns out we're still in Kansas."

M.C. Hammer: “If you want to touch it, that’s fine.”

Oliver Twist: “Sir, I am totally full!”

Lloyd Benson: “You remind me of Jack Kennedy.”

Neil Armstrong: “One small step for a man.  And one giant scam perpetrated on Mankind.   (I’m actually in Nevada!!!)”

Ronald Reagan: “Among the 16 scariest words in the English Language: ‘I've been recommended by the Federalist Society and I'll be the next US Supreme Court Justice.’"

Donald Trump: “I’m the least racist person anyone is ever going to meet.”  (No correction here.  He really said this -- more than once. We double checked.)

A few additional clarifications.  It turns out that…

(1)   Bob Marley did not shoot the sheriff.  

(2)   John F. Kennedy was/is not a “Berliner.”

(3)   The British band Queen is not the “champions of the world.”

(4)   Todd Rundgren is a workaholic – he has never “banged on the drum all day.”

(5)   In a recent interview, Paul McCartney acknowledged that while love is very, very important, it is not all you need. 

(6)   Bill Clinton actually did not feel your pain.

Tim Koechlin

Tim Koechlin

Tim Koechlin holds a PhD in economics. He is the Director of the International Studies Program at Vassar College, where he has an appointment in International Studies and Urban Studies. Professor Koechlin has taught and written about a variety of subjects including economic, political and racial inequality; globalization; macroeconomic policy, and urban political economy.

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