President Obama's recitation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is sparking hysteria from the right-wing media who slammed the president for omitting the phrase “under God.” But ironically, in their hurry to attack the president, they omitted the fact that Obama was reading the first draft of the speech -- a draft that did not include “under God” -- at the request of filmmaker Ken Burns.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns compiled footage of important national figures -- including Obama and all the living former presidents -- reciting portions of the speech.
On November 19, right-wing radio host Chris Plante accused Obama of omitting the phrase “under God” from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Other conservative media outlets like the Drudge Report, The Daily Caller, and National Review Online's The Corner promptly ran with the story. WMAL, which hosts The Chris Plante Show, remarked about the news:
One nation under God? Under President Obama, maybe not so much.
As first reported on WMAL's Chris Plante Show Tuesday, the Commander-in-Chief joined a cast of 61 other noted lawmakers, politicians, news anchors and celebrities, including every living President, in reciting the Gettysburg Address, which President Abraham Lincoln delivered on November 19, 1863.
The dignitaries all delivered the address as Lincoln had written it, including the phrase, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." (Click to listen). Curiously, however, in his version of the address, President Obama omitted the words “under God.”
Obama's recitation was not 'curious,' it was accurate -- Burns requested that President Obama read the 'Nicolay Version' of the Address, which was Lincoln's first draft of the Address and does not contain the phrase “under God.” The relevant text of the Nicolay version, which Obama recites, reads (emphasis added):
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The right-wing media's rush to hysteria and ignorance of the facts in this case is ironic: Burns' project is called Learn the Address.
UPDATE: After this post's publication, the Daily Caller acknowledged the error in an update to its original post:
The “Learn the Address” website notes that “We asked President Obama to read ... the 'Nicolay Version'” of the Gettsyburg Address, which omits the words “under God.” That disclosure does not appear alongside Obama's video on the site.
UPDATE 2: National Review Online's The Corner also published an update to its original post:
During today's White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney claimed that President Obama had read from the version of the Gettysburg Address given to him by documentarian Ken Burns. This appears to be the case. As Mediaite notes, the website for Burns' upcoming project, Learn the Address, says that there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the “Nicolay Version.” This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase “under God.” Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase.