FACT CHECK: Did Winston Churchill Author This Quote About How Fast Lies Travel?
An image shared on Facebook claimed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
There is no evidence that this quote comes from Churchill. Versions of the expression have existed since at least the early 1700s.
Although Churchill is eminently quotable, there is no evidence that he originated this particular saying. The quote does not appear in a selection of writings about Churchill or any of his speeches or books. (RELATED: Did Winston Churchill Say This Quote About Muslims?)
The website Quote Investigator traced a variation of the maxim back to the early 18th century, attributable to author Jonathan Swift, who wrote, “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”
The quote has appeared in various forms over the years. Richard Langworth, a senior fellow at the Hillsdale College Churchill Project, credited Cordell Hull, President Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of state, with a similar expression: “A lie will gallop halfway round the world before the truth has time to pull its breeches on.”
Many decades earlier, in 1855, the preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon cited another variation of the saying that swapped out the word “pants” with “boots.”
“In conclusion,” Quote Investigator writes, “there exists a family of expressions contrasting the dissemination of lies and truths, and these adages have been evolving for more than 300 years.”