AUSTIN, Texas — Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill did not say "the fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists," as suggested by a meme shared online Tuesday by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The quote, which appears with a picture of Churchill and the words "CHURCHILL ON THE LEFTWING(sic)" was tweeted by Abbott on his personal account, along with the comment: "Some insights are timeless."
David Freeman, a lecturer at California State University-Fullerton and director of publications at the International Churchill Society, called the meme a classic example of "Churchillian drift," which he described as quotes erroneously attributed to Churchill in the pursuit of adding intellectual heft.
Freeman said he didn't know the quote's origin but called it one of the more common false Churchill quotes floating around.
By late Tuesday morning, Abbott — who was criticized on social media for sharing the erroneous quote — had deleted the tweet, however he defended the sentiment. He said the quote reflected his feelings on "antifa," short for anti-fascists, calling them a danger to society and "antagonists to law enforcement."
"It was irrelevant to me who may or may not have said that in the past. I didn't want to be accused of plagiarism for saying it," Abbott said.
This is part of The Associated Press' ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.