Fact Check

Thomas Sowell

Various Internet-circulated political items written by Thomas Sowell.

Published Aug 11, 2008

Claim:   Various Internet-circulated items about the 2008 U.S. presidential election were written by Thomas Sowell.


Origins:   Thomas Sowell is described by Wikipedia as:

An American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution located at, but not affiliated with, Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholarship melding history, economics, and political science.

As a syndicated columnist, Mr. Sowell has penned a number of articles dealing with the 2008 U.S. presidential election, some of which have been widely circulated on the Internet through e-mail forwards and web postings. As is typical with redistributed material, some of the pieces Mr. Sowell wrote have been reproduced with missing or incorrect attributions, and some things he did not write have been erroneously

attributed to him. We'll sort through some of the more commonly circulated items here to distinguish what is genuinely his work from that which is not

An article entitled "An Old Newness," which offered the example of baseball player Paul Waner to caution about the pitfalls of wanting "to reach [a] landmark so badly that we are willing to overlook how questionably that landmark is reached" (in reference to Barack Obama's possibly becoming the first black President of the United States) is a genuine Thomas Sowell column from 29 April 2008. Its opening paragraphs read as follows:

Many years ago, a great hitter named Paul Waner was nearing the end of his long career. He entered a ballgame with 2,999 hits — one hit away from the landmark total of 3,000, which so many hitters want to reach, but which relatively few actually do reach.

Waner hit a ball that the fielder did not handle cleanly but the official scorer called it a hit, making it Waner's 3,000th. Paul Waner then sent word to the official scorer that he did not want that questionable hit to be the one that put him over the top.

The official scorer reversed himself and called it an error. Later Paul Waner got a clean hit for number 3,000.

What reminded me of this is the great fervor that many seem to feel over the prospect of the first black President of the United States.

(It is indeed true that Paul Waner spurned achieving his 3,000th hit via a questionable scoring call.)

An article entitled "Obama and McCain," which criticized both candidates as "painfully inadequate" but vetted John McCain as the one who would better deal with a nuclear threat from Iran is also a genuine Thomas Sowell column, published on 5 June 2008. Its opening paragraphs read as follows:

Now that the two parties have finally selected their presidential candidates, it is time for a sober — if not grim — assessment of where we are.

Not since 1972 have we been presented with two such painfully inadequate candidates. When election day came that year, I could not bring myself to vote for either George McGovern or Richard Nixon. I stayed home.

This year, none of us has that luxury. While all sorts of gushing is going on in the media, and posturing is going on in politics, the biggest national sponsor of terrorism in the world — Iran — is moving step by step toward building a nuclear bomb.

The point when they get that bomb will be the point of no return. Iran's nuclear bomb will be the terrorists' nuclear bomb — and they can make 9/11 look like child's play.

A lengthy e-mail endorsing John McCain for president is now commonly attributed to Thomas Sowell, but it was not written by him. (Mr. Sowell has penned several "Random Thoughts" columns over the last year, but none of them was an endorsement of John McCain, and none of them was nearly as long as the item cited here.) This e-mail is an item of unknown authorship which was originally simply credited as the work of "Anonymous" or "A Concerned American" before someone tacked on a preface that mistakenly attributed it to Thomas Sowell:

Thomas Sowell is a syndicated columnist and Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Stanford, CA. This past week, he wrote in a column titled "Random Thoughts", and published in newspapers nationally, the following:

"Senator John McCain could never convince me to vote for him. Only Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama can cause me to vote for McCain."

Oh, and in case you aren't familiar with Thomas Sowell, He happens to be black.


After long and serious thought, I have decided to endorse Senator John McCain for President.

I have always voted for the person and have not voted for anyone because some political party was telling me who I should vote for.

We all know the choices by now and, that said, I do believe that the process of selecting a chief executive is deeply flawed. The words "money" and "special interests" come to mind, among many others.

Here's the way I see it:

Barack Obama, you are a fine public speaker. You are also an extremely liberal Senator from the State of Illinois, which has a long and rich history of political corruption of the first magnitude. You are indeed a child of that system.

You have finally insulted my intelligence far beyond my capacity to tolerate your insults. It has nothing at all to do with your skin color. As a matter of fact, it would be so COOL to finally have an African-American for President. What a great statement that would be to the entire world that we are indeed the greatest country on earth!

But, unfortunately, General Colin Powell is not running, and YOU are NOT the man for this job!

Another e-mail positing that Barack Obama is not eligible to be President of the United States because he does not meet the requirements for natural-born citizenship status has also been erroneously attributed to Thomas Sowell, who (on 10 July 2008) issued a statement denying authorship of it:

Over the years, many statements have been falsely attributed to me, but this is the first year in which a whole column has been made up and circulated in a chain letter on the Internet, claiming that I wrote it.

Letters, phone calls and e-mails from readers around the country have asked me if I wrote a column saying that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. The answer is "No."

Many of my readers have been savvy enough to tell that the style of the phony column is not mine, but checked with me just to be sure.

What is puzzling about all this is that some people would take seriously a chain letter on the Internet saying what some columnist — any columnist — is supposed to have said, and would pass that on without knowing whether it was true or false.

The full text of the "Barack Obama is not an American citizen" e-mail, and our analysis of its veracity, can be found in a separate article on this site.

Last updated:   27 November 2011

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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