Epic Fail: New Oval Office Rug Historically Inaccurate, MLK Quote Actually Said by Somebody Else

Posted on September 4, 2010

You know that new rug that was made specially to decorate the Oval Office? The one with all the awesome quotes from famous Americans lining the outside border? Well, somebody blundered big time. The rug has a giant misquote, according to The Washington Post. Yes, the newspaper that broke Watergate has now broken Rug-gate. It turns out that the quote "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice" was never uttered by Dr. King at all. Dr. King liked that quotation, but he always attributed the quote to its actual author, Theodore Parker. Who was Theodore Parker? Parker was an abolitionist, a Unitarian minister and a Transcendentalist from Boston, whom Dr. King admired. Parker died just before the beginning of the Civil War.

He's a rather obscure historical figure, that's for sure. But it gets worse. A scholar contacted the Obama campaign during the primaries to tell Obama that the attribution of the quote to Dr. King was wrong. Somehow, the message never got through.

The Post says, "Unless you're fascinated by antebellum American reformers, you may not know of the lyrically gifted Parker, an abolitionist, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist thinker who foresaw the end of slavery, though he did not live to see emancipation. He died at age 49 in 1860, on the eve of the Civil War.

Not only is the quote misattributed. It's inaccurate, as well. The correct quote made by Theodore Parker in 1853 is: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one... But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice." Close, but not quite. So far the White House has been unavailable for comment, no doubt because the decorator and White House historian are hiding out till this blows over.

We think of it as a fortunate disaster. The leader of the free world cannot possibly have a giant beige rug full of wildly inaccurate quotes surrounding him while he makes important decisions. Time to re-make the rug. And this time, let's lose the beige and go with a rich red or burgundy.