Multiple points of data, all spelled out below, show that mentions of this quote with Twain's name appeared to be born on the internet during or prior to the year 2012.
On Oct. 30, 2023, the Boycott CNN Facebook page posted a photo of author Mark Twain alongside the quote, "No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot."
The post – which included a quote that was about gathering evidence and the people who refuse to be persuaded by data – received more than 139,000 likes, 6,100 comments and 65,000 shares.
However, we found no documentary evidence that would show Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, ever said these words.
Twain Museum Reports 'No Trace' of Quote
The Facebook post showed a "false information" label that linked to a fact check from Lead Stories. The author of that 2019 fact check called the quote "fake" and referenced TwainQuotes.com, an authoritative source of researched quotes from Twain's writings. TwainQuotes.com did not feature the quote in question in its collection.
The Australian Associated Press (AAP) fact-checking website also once published a story about the quote. According to the article, a museum spokeswoman for the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, said that its staff found "no trace" that would support attribution of the quote to Twain.
We reached out to the same museum via email and received a similar response from curatorial volunteer Steve Courtney, who told us that the museum's verdict to AAP in 2019 was that it was "highly unlikely" that the quote originated with Twain. Courtney also added that he would continue his search and let us know if he found anything further.
Another Quote Born on the Internet
To be sure we were covering all bases, we performed our own searches even after learning that other journalists had found that the quote had been misattributed to Twain.
One noteworthy find in our research was that, in August 2012, the quote appeared on Twitter with Twain's name for the first time, six years after Twitter was created and 102 years after his death in 1910.
The fact that the quote coupled with Twain's name was never tweeted during those first six years that Twitter existed, never appeared in any literature during the 20th century (according to Google Books) and wasn't printed in any newspapers until 2019 (according to Newspapers.com), collectively show that his name being attached to the quote was likely the work of at least one online user, possibly a now-defunct Twitter account named @WeirdReport.
Several of the tweets from August 2012 all mentioned @WeirdReport. It's possible that the @WeirdReport account – which was last archived on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine in November 2020 – started the false rumor that said the quote had originated with Twain.
— Elizabeth Segura (@HBCeveryday) August 17, 2012
— Tina (@Liberty4014) August 17, 2012
“@WeirdReport: "No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot." -Mark Twain."
— Jay Lim (@jaylimgolf) August 16, 2012
According to a search of Twitter, the only other time that the exact quote appeared on the platform prior to August 2012 without Twain's name was in May 2012.
No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot
— Yagmur (@Yagmur_Gurtunca) May 3, 2012
Twain's Real Thoughts About 'Evidence' and 'Idiots'
While there's no record of Twain ever saying the exact words in the quote, the word "evidence" did appear in his writings.
For example, in Twain's 1896 novel, "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc," he wrote, "It was not my opinion; I think there is no sense in forming an opinion when there is no evidence to form it on. If you build a person without any bones in him he may look fair enough to the eye, but he will be limber and cannot stand up; and I consider that evidence is the bones of an opinion."
Also, in a letter dated March 23, 1898, Twain, referred to by his real name, Clemens, wrote to wealthy businessman Henry Huttleston Rogers, saying that, "Circumstantial evidence is among the most valuable of all testimonies." The letter appears on page 336 of the book, "Mark Twain's Correspondence with Henry Huttleston Rogers, 1893-1909."
Twain also separately used the word "idiot" in the same letter to Rogers, which was one of several uses of the word found in Twain's writings, according to TwainQuotes.com.