On Monday, a quote supposedly penned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was making its way across the web, warning U.S. citizens not to â€œreturn hate for hateâ€ following Osama Bin Ladenâ€™s death. Now weâ€™re learning that the quote is not quite accurate.
â€œI mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.â€
The Atlantic wrote that the quote was, indeed, fabricated â€” saying: â€œItâ€™s a bit too a propos. What â€˜thousandsâ€™ would King have been talking about? In which enemyâ€™s death was he supposed to be rejoicing?â€
The article then goes on to ask: â€œSomeone made up a quote, attributed it to MLK Jr., and disseminated it widely, all within 24 hours. Why? What do you get out of saying something pithy, and getting no credit for it?â€
Thatâ€™s not exactly how it went down. A good portion of the quote is, in fact, real â€” it comes from Kingâ€™s book Strength to Love (keep reading before and after the words in question â€” itâ€™s a good read).
Salon reported earlier that the quote came from magician Penn Jillette (yes, of Penn & Teller fame), who tweeted the quote around 20 hours ago. Upon receiving heat from followers about its validity, Jillette responded: â€œI checked a long quote from MLKâ€™s â€˜Strength to loveâ€™ 1963 that spoke to some of my feelings, then I cut and pasted an altered hunk. Sorry.â€
This morning however, the Detroit Free Press reported that the first sentence â€” the part referencing â€œthousandsâ€ supposedly comes from Twitter user Jessica Dovey, who tweeted this morning at Jillette: â€œI am the original author of the â€˜MLKâ€™ quote. Somewhere my words got mixed with his.â€ Jillette then retweeted her tweet containing the admission.