“Truth isn’t truth,” the infamous statement that Rudolph W. Giuliani made in a back-and-forth with NBC’s Chuck Todd about the Russia investigation, is 2018’s most notable quote.
That’s according to Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro, author of the 2006 book “The Yale Book of Quotations,” a collection of more than 12,000 well-known quotations by famous personalities, living or dead. Every year for the last 13 years, Shapiro picks 10 quotes to add to his exhaustive list, quotes that he says represent “the spirit of the times.”
In 2018 — the year following the rise of “alternative facts” — to say that the truth is not the truth is very much representative of the political discourse, Shapiro said.
“I think perhaps the most striking development in our current zeitgeist is a dramatic decline in respect for truth in politics, and this quote fits nicely into that narrative,” Shapiro said. “I thought it was a very representative quote of our times.”
Giuliani, an attorney for President Trump in the Russia inquiry, made the comment during an appearance on “Meet the Press” in August. Giuliani was explaining that he would not allow special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to rush Trump into an interview because investigators could trap the president into perjuring himself. And the interview turned into a strange discussion about truth.
Here’s part of the head-scratching exchange:
Giuliani: “And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth ...”
Todd: “Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like ...”
Giuliani: “No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth. The president of the United States says, ‘I didn’t ...’ ”
Todd: “Truth isn’t truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize what ...”
Giuliani: “No, no, no.”
Todd: “This is going to be a bad meme.”
Giuliani: “Don’t do, don’t do this to me.”
Todd: “Don’t do ‘truth isn’t truth’ to me.”
Giuliani later sought to clarify his comments, saying he was referring to instances in which two people make contradictory statements, “the classic ‘he said, she said’ puzzle,” he said.
But those comments, like White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” — which topped Shapiro’s list last year — are bound to never be forgotten.
Shapiro said he usually tried to diversify the list by drawing from popular culture, sports and business. But this year’s list, he said, is mostly focused on politics. Nearly all the quotes that made the list either touched on hot-button issues or were uttered in a partisan context. Some quotes were said, others tweeted; some were made in moments of eloquence, others in moments of blunder. And all reflect “the deplorable state of our culture,” Shapiro said.
“I may choose quotes because they have negative characteristics, or because they have positive characteristics, or just because they are striking or revealing,” he said.
No. 2 on the list: “I liked beer. I still like beer.”
Then-Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh said this repeatedly during a Senate hearing about a sexual assault accusation lodged by Christine Blasey Ford, who said that Kavanaugh — whose nomination to the Supreme Court was being considered — drunkenly tried to rape her during a house party more than 30 years ago.
“The Kavanaugh quote came in a very serious context of a nomination hearing revolving around a possible scandalous behavior, but I think this quote about beer was widely regarded as strikingly colorful,” Shapiro said. “The fact that he repeatedly talked about beer, of all things, in a Supreme Court nomination hearing [when] there were very real questions as to whether he was falsifying his history of drinking made it a very compelling quote.”
Here’s the complete list, as published Tuesday by the Associated Press:
“Truth isn’t truth.” — Giuliani.
“I liked beer. I still like beer.” — Kavanaugh.
“While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” — Sanofi pharmaceutical company, responding to Roseanne Barr’s blaming of its product Ambien in explaining a tweet that led ABC to cancel her show, May 30.
“We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.” — Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain, in a eulogy for her father, Sept. 1.
“We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.” — David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, in a CNN interview, Feb. 15.
“[I am] not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!” — Trump, in a tweet, Jan. 6.
“You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.” — Kanye West, in a tweet, April 25.
“Our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything, based on information from media sources that will say anything.” — Former FBI Director James B. Comey, in a tweet, May 23.
“I have just signed your death warrant.” — Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, addressing former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar upon sentencing him to up to 175 years in prison for sexual assault, Jan. 24.
“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” — Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), in remarks at a rally in Los Angeles, June 23.