Fred Thompson Flubs the Facts on Tonight Show

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


In response to a question from Jay Leno about why America is so disliked worldwide, new presidential candidate Fred Thompson had this to say (transcript here):

Well, part of that comes with being the strongest, most powerful, most prosperous country in the history of the world. I think that goes with the territory. We’re more unpopular than we need to be. That’s for sure, but our people have shed more blood for the liberty and freedom of other peoples in this country than all the other countries put together. (Applause.) And I don’t feel any need to apologize for the United States of America.

First, this is silly. As the “strongest, most powerful, most prosperous country in the history of the world,” we can be the most popular or least popular country around, depending on our actions. There’s nothing inherent about being on top that makes people hate you.

Second, this is false. The Soviet Union lost over 20 million people in World War II, an astonishing 10-13 percent of the country’s total population. The U.S. lost 418,500 in WWII, 117,465 in WWI, and roughly 60,000 in Vietnam. More on those numbers here; point is, it’s not even close.

Look, I don’t mean to denigrate the sacrifice of American servicemen and women through the ages. But let’s not be badly, badly factually incorrect in the name of national pride.

Update: See my thoughts on why Thompson would be the GOP’s worst nominee.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate