FACT CHECK: Did Henry Ford Say, ‘Any Man Who Thinks He Can Be Prosperous By Letting The Government Take Care Of Him, Better Take A Closer Look At The American Indian’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

Conservative youth organization Turning Point USA shared an image on Facebook that claims industrialist Henry Ford once said, “Any man who thinks he can be prosperous by letting the government take care of him, better take a closer look at the American Indian.”

“Big Government HURTS Entire Communities!” reads the caption.

Verdict: False

The Daily Caller News Foundation found no evidence that Ford ever said or wrote this expression.

Fact Check:

“There is no failure except failure to serve one’s purpose,” said Ford in a 1923 edition of his newspaper.

This quote is just one of many attributed to Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company. Yet, while there is clear evidence that Ford actually said this statement, that’s not the case for the expression attributed to him in the Facebook post.

The DCNF keyword-searched the Henry Ford Museum’s digital archive for the statement, but found nothing resembling it. It also doesn’t appear in his autobiography “My Life and Work.”

Though the Henry Ford Museum doesn’t comment on the veracity of alleged quotes as a matter of policy, the phrase is notably absent from the museum’s list of more than 200 verified quotations.

Etymologist Barry Popik traced a variation of the expression – “If you want to consider what ‘social security’ does for and to people look at the American Indian” – back to a 1935 column in The Evening Tribune newspaper. Citations that more closely resemble the quote have appeared from 1950 onward.

For instance, one appears in May 1950 edition of a Boston newspaper, where the author wrote, “Observes a cynic: ‘If you think you’re going to be happy and prosperous by sitting back and letting the government take care of you, look at the American Indian.'”

The earliest known attribution to Ford doesn’t come until the 2000s, according to Popik. It’s unclear how or why the expression came to be associated with him.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter
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