September 4th, 2010
04:32 PM ET
4 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. Gordon

    Why would anything said by Martin Luther King be appropriate for the Oval Office? What did he do to establish the United States? If President Obama intended to include any quotation by MLK, he was proving his own racism.

    September 4, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Independant Vet

    You are luckie that it doesn't , say " this now is the office of KING HUSSIEN OBAMA the First Muslim King to rock the USA. into destintion.

    September 4, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  3. Aaron

    Someone from this administration doing something without fact checking or experience? No Way!! ;-)

    September 4, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  4. Time grows short

    Bush did it, I tell ya. Yeap, W's fault. And maybe that fascist Palin had a hand in the carpet caper. Or may Glenn Beck. Thats it, Beck did it. ]

    President Barry Satera and the Progressives are the biggest pack of lunatics to occupy the White House since the beginning of the republic.

    September 4, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  5. robert l craft

    i cant believe he is decorating his office at a time like this.o well him and his wife lives high off the tax payers and thinks nothing of it.so does all people in government.

    September 4, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  6. Zach

    No, you are wrong. That is his quote. If Obama says so it must be true.

    September 4, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Jane

    Don't really understand why the oval office has a quote from MLK along with 4 presidents next to the presidential seal he was not a president. The whole thing is a faux pas.

    September 4, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  8. alex

    DEck is clean. Obama take vacation again. What a job?!!!.

    September 4, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  9. john

    another embarassment at the oval office

    September 4, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  10. Anne P. CA

    For heaven's sake, who in the heck cares? Why is this news when there is so much important stuff to deal with? Can we get any more petty than we've been w/the Obama Admin.? Every little detail of their lives is reported. Get over it, people; who cares if it's purple or pink....let it be!

    September 4, 2010 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  11. LW in AZ

    And it's none of our business.

    September 4, 2010 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  12. Marylou

    Michelle O is NO Jackie Kennedy NOT even close! so stop trying to put your bad taste signature all over the white house! Thank god Obama is going to be a one term president!

    September 4, 2010 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  13. karedden@charter.net

    Do we or do we not have othering (THINGS) more pressing or important then this/////////???????? Help us all

    September 4, 2010 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  14. terry,va

    I'm surprised Obummie didn't have an al queda flag put in there.

    September 4, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  15. Marcus

    Big deal.
    Give the credit where its due and move on.

    September 4, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  16. ICanHazTeeParti

    Another disaster on Obama's watch! He's destroying this country, one misquote at a time.

    September 4, 2010 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  17. tax payer

    Our tax dollars at work again. Nice to see that our tax dollars are going to a such a good cause. A new makeover for the President.

    September 4, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  18. jim

    Obama administration- the gang that can't shoot straight !!!!

    September 4, 2010 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  19. Guest

    At what point should I pretend to be surprised by this?

    September 4, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  20. Pat in Omaha

    Here we go.....this is going to be one of those "so Obama lies, too" next to Beck's comment about holding Washington's inaugural address!!!...
    Trouble is, Obama wasn't the one who said it! And there's no real gain
    in saying it...
    Hey, Mr. Beck...seen any miraculous geese flying over lately?

    September 4, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  21. charlotte fambrough

    Really? My suggestion when in dought "use" the net . We have the world in the palm of our hands. This is total ignorance, which is no longer longer bliss.

    September 4, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  22. Keith in Austin

    I'm surprized that Erkel Hussein Obozo didn't select quotes from Saul Alinsky or Karl Marx. I trust that in 2012 Shelly's interior designs will be hauled off to the trash heap along with her neo-socialst husband!

    September 4, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  23. Chipster

    King appears to have paraphrased Parker's statement, which was a much longer statement and would have required wall to wall carpet. It baffles me as to why this is of any importance. The rug is President Obama's. If he is happy with it, that's really all that matters, isn't it?

    September 4, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  24. AAMOM

    It is no wonder people have stopped watching CNN. The constant Obama bashing is better on Fox News.

    September 4, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  25. DJ in the Silicon Forest

    I'm shocked! Just shocked, I tell you!

    Shocked that Obama's rug does not have his own immortal words printed on it: "We are the ones we have been waiting for."

    September 4, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
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