September 4th, 2010
04:32 PM ET
8 years ago

Oval Office rug wrongly attributes quote to MLK

ALT TEXT A quote on the perimeter of the new presidential rug in the Oval Office is wrongly attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. (PHOTO CREDIT: Shawna Shepherd/POOL)

(Updated at 10:30 p.m. ET)

(CNN) - Remember the big makeover the Oval Office got last week while President Obama was on vacation?

Well, there’s a problem with the presidential rug.

The floor piece has quotations from four U.S. presidents and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — or does it?

One quote reads, “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, But It Bends Towards Justice.”

As the Washington Post’s Jamie Stiehm points out, the quote attributed to King is not really King’s quote at all.

It’s Theodore Parker’s.

King often quoted and paraphrased Parker, an abolitionist and minister from Massachusetts, who in 1853 proclaimed, “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one ... And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

While the origins of Parker’s proclamation are rarely cited in today’s public discourse, a search on even the most basic of research tools, Wikipedia, reveals Parker as the voice behind the words.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton on Saturday stood by the quote on the rug, noting that Martin Luther King Jr. did utter precisely the same words on September 2, 1957. Burton said that Theodore Parker's quote is slightly different.

(Updated at 10:30 p.m. ET with a comment from the White House)

Filed under: White House
soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    I believe Parker was a Unitarian minister. Obama's mother and grandmother were Unitarians, it may not be a mistake.

    September 4, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  2. groingo

    Had it been an all volunteer effort I say there would be no problem but to spend money (allotted or not) at this time when the economy is a wreck and the problem is primarily centered from the Whitehouse is like a finger in the eye to the general public...lousy timing and thought all around but it does look good, should be easy to keep clean for sure!

    September 4, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. CoCitizen

    The Washington Post and CNN need to get a life. I guess Sarah Palin must have decided to sleep in today and you had nothing else to report on. Get a life. Be serious journalists for a change.

    September 4, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  4. TC

    Ahahahaha too funny! Such historic significance. Democrats attributing something a white man said to a black man. How racist!! Shoulda left well enough alone. What idiots!

    September 4, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  5. BobPlanet

    It's a tea party quote. How appropriate.

    September 4, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  6. Toughlove

    Liarrrrr!!!!!!!! Ha! Just kidding. I wanted to sound like the crazy liberals who were shouting "liar!" at Glen Beck the other day.

    September 4, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. JohninTampa

    In a country where 18 percent of the population think the sun circles the earth, any to-do about ownership of a paraphrased quote is a measure of banality I don't even want to think about.

    September 4, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. RabidRight

    Oh BARF! The looks like a warmed-over 70's "Soul Trainwreck". Seriously , could they have made the whitehouse look any less presidential??? Obama proves that he not only lacks any leadership skills,whatsoever, he has absolutely NO taste. Just another embarrassing moment in the history of the Obama presidency.

    September 4, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  9. mike

    this is a complete joke to say the least Obama can't sneeze without some one from the media criticizing it or doing some poll on it and they wonder why nothing gets done on the hill if you have the media that are fighting for ratings and idiots like beck playing god on the hill and looking at a bunch of bird crap thinking it was a sign from heaven news flash beck thats were it came from right out of some birds flying south for the winter but I guess your to stupid to know that

    September 4, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  10. the real ib

    Don't let Obama know that; he will use more taxpayer money to redo it again. You know how he likes to spend money this country does not have to spend.

    September 4, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Marky

    The Audacity of Taupe!!! HHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh G0D this is ugly!!!

    September 4, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  12. Hannah

    Every president does a makeover of the Oval Office. And he paid for it out of his own money. What is the problem here? Is it because we now have a black president that the racist people from the south are objecting. I have never seen the vitriol that is coming out of some of the people in this country. President Obama is one of the smartest, critical thinking, hard working presidents we have had in years. His family is adorable. When bush was first in office, his two daughters were dancing naked in bars. Let's get behind him and get this country back on track.

    September 4, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. Pedro

    Golly gee, say it isn't so. Some piece of decor in the White House has attributed a quote to the wrong person. My wing-nut sense is tingling. I predict that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, not to mention about 4 dozen GOP sheeple posting here will be calling loudly for Obama's impeachment over this one.

    September 4, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. SkiDoc

    This administration is an ABSOLUTE embarrassment. Even the "makeover" is a tribute to socialism – trailer park interior embellished with illiteracy.

    But the lamestream media will continue to give this socialist a pass.

    Can you imagine the glee that NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN would take in reporting on this fiasco if this was Bush???

    November can't come soon enough!!

    September 4, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Meidy

    Maybe some of us in the 50% of those of us who actually pay taxes in this country can pay for this mistake too. Shoot from the hip....that's this administration's style. No research. No thought. Ready, Fire, Aim. It's a expensive joke....but a joke nonetheless.

    September 4, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  16. Lynn

    OK, is this really that big of a deal? really please give our President a break. He has far too many things on his plate to research something like this. He does have a staff!

    September 4, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. Anie

    Who ordered a new rug for the Oval Office? Who signed the OK on that? How many people would the payment for that run have fed today?

    September 4, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. Marie MD

    And this is a problem because? Goodness! Stop accusing and going after everything the President does.
    Somebody at CNN needs to get a life. Between these dumb stupid posts about whatever it is President Obama does and those retarded quotes of the quitter's ghost write on twitter and facebook can't you people come up with real news from somewhere?

    September 4, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Lynn

    We have far more important issues than to worry about the Oval Office make-over. What the heck does the decor matter when thousands are unemployed. Get over it and go on to serious news.

    September 4, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. paul

    Besides the dull tone of the room with the same bland hue used throughout, the idea of quotes in the furnishings is cheesy and 'low-rent' for the office of the president of the United States. I am almost sure, never having been in '10 Downing Street', the Queen's palaces. the Kremlin, or even the Vatican that NONE would have had quotes on their carpets.

    It reminds me of the upholstery on the "bargain" airline in Europe AER LINGUS which has quotes from famous Irish writings all over the place from seats, walls to carpets.

    WAY TO GO, WH.

    September 4, 2010 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  21. BobPlanet

    CNN has been unable to reach the WH for comment because they're on vacay, again.

    September 4, 2010 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  22. malabar

    Aahahahaha! where do i start?! Bushs fault? and u call Palin stupid? this is just 2 rich. . . i will simply take joy in reading the explanations sum of u will have. as 4 u dems who CAN admit the hilarity of it all, well lets enjoy this bipartisan laugh 2gethe, it aint the end of the world like sum libs wud make it out to b if it were a republican.

    September 4, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain

    Yep, sounds like someone didn't fact check the quote. However, it's still a great quote by an author that MLK often quoted – and my guess is that part of the rug will be fixed.

    I don't have a problem with the makeover; it's the President's office, and he can do with it what he wants. If how it looks is appealing to him, that's fine by me.

    CNN, let's get back to the real news now!

    September 4, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  24. normajean

    As someone trained in the arts, I find the current Oval Office discomforting. It looks more cozy as in a family room, soft shades with touches of color but completely nondescript. It does not do justice to the president of the United States, no matter whom he might be. There is no business like , ,professional "onward and upward" quality to it. As to the carpeting., without the vibrant colors and a much larger U.S, seal it looks almost like my carpet, which is awful! I think it was the Interior designer that was on vacation.!

    September 4, 2010 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. aghast-again

    Running true to form. Jump in without being well informed. Shoulda kept the Bush rug. He gets the blame for everything anyway.

    September 4, 2010 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
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