"If you don’t stop lying about me, I’ll start telling the truth about you” is used often in politics, usually credited to Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) from a 1952 presidential stump speech. The line dates back to at least October 1888 and the presidential campaign between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison: “The Republicans at once accepted the proposition, and the Democrats agreed to stop lying about Harrison if the Republicans agreed to stop telling the truth about Cleveland.”
“If our enemies will stop lying about us we will stop telling the truth about them” was cited in print in October 1892, credited to a “gifted Kentuckian.” James John Hagerman (1838-1909) is also said to have used the phrase in the early 1890s.
Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) used the saying in his unsuccessful run for governor against Charles Evans Hughes in 1906. Chauncey Depew (1834-1928), who was New York’s U.S. senator from 1899-1911, is said to have used the saying, but it’s not certain when he used it.
Wikiquote: Adlai Stevenson
Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (5 February 1900 – 14 July 1965) was an American politician and statesman, noted for his skill in debate and oratory; Governor of Illinois, he was twice an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States running against Dwight D. Eisenhower (in 1952 and 1956). Under the John F. Kennedy administration, he served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends… that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.
. Campaign statement in Fresno, California (10 September 1952); earlier incidence of similar comments exist:
. If Mr. Hughes will stop lying about me, I will stop telling the truth about him.
.. William Randolph Hearst, about Charles Evans Hughes, in 1906, as quoted in The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When (2006) by Ralph Keyes
. If you will refrain from telling any lies about the Republican Party, I’lll promise not to tell the truth about the Democrats.
.. Chauncey Depew, as quoted in “If Elected I Promise ...” Stories and Gems of Wisdom by and About Politicians (1969) by John F. Parker
Wikiquote: Chauncey Depew
Chauncey Depew (23 April 1834 – 5 April 1928) was a United States Senator.
If you will refrain from telling any lies about the Republican Party, I’lll promise not to tell the truth about the Democrats.
. As quoted in “If Elected I Promise ... “ Stories and Gems of Wisdom by and About Politicians (1969) by John F. Parker
The Quote Verifier:
Who said what, where, and when
By Ralph Keyes
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
“If they will stop telling LIES about us, we will stop telling the truth about them.” (...) Nearly half a century earlier, while running against Charles Evans Hughes for governor of New York in 1906, William Randolph Hearst said, “If Mr. Hughes will stop lying about me, I will stop telling the truth about him.” Chauncey Depew, who was a Republican senator from New York from 1899 to 1911, often said, “If you will refrain from telling any lies about the Republican Party, I’ll promise not to tell the truth about the Democrats.” This line probably antedates both Hearst and Depew (to say nothing of Stevenson).
Verdict: an old political saw.
Wikipedia: J. J. Hagerman
James John (J.J.) Hagerman (March 23, 1838 - September 13, 1909) was an American industrialist who owned mines, railroads and corporate farms in the American West in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was one of the most influential men in territorial New Mexico.
Google News Archive
4 October 1888, Paterson (NJ) Weekly Press, pg. 3, col. 3:
The speaker then proceeded to discuss the national issues of the campaign. He said that when the nominations were made the Democrats suggested that this ought to be a campaign of intelligence and that no mud was to be thrown. The Republicans at once accepted the proposition, and the Democrats agreed to stop lying about Harrison if the Republicans agreed to stop telling the truth about Cleveland.
13 October 1892, Saginaw (MI) News, “A Matter of Truth,” pg. 6:
As to the alleged misrepresentation concerning Mr. Linton, THE NEWS begs to say, in the language of the gifted Kentuckian, “If our enemies will stop lying about us we will stop telling the truth about them.”
27 October 1906, New York (NY) Tribune, pg. 6, col. 4:
THE TRUTH FROM MR. HUGHES.
From the New York Sun.
Mr. Hearst told his audience in this city on Wednesday night that he did not believe in personalities, and he went on: “If Mr. Hughes will stop telling lies about me I will stop telling the truth about him.” Mr. Hughes would not make the same promise, It is the truth about Hearst which makes votes for Hughes, and the proof is that Hearst will not publish the truth when spoken by his opponent.
4 November 1906, Pensacola (FL) Journal, “Graves on N. Y. Election,” second section, pg. 15, col. 1:
When He Would Stop.
“I (William Randolph Hearst—ed.) do not like personalities of this kind, and I will make a proposition to Mr. Hughes in order to stop him. If Mr. Hughes will stop lying about me I will stop telling the truth about him.”
November 1909, Michigan Alumnus, “James J. Hagerman, ‘61,” pg. 84, col. 2:
On one occasion when he was in New York financing one of his enterprises he met a former business associate who had not been friendly, and who was on the same business with himself. A clash now would endanger the success of both; a compromise was necessary. Hagerman said to him: “Now, if you will stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about you.”
v. 110 - 1915
The political editor of one of the New York dailies was accosted one day by a leading politician with this somewhat pointed question: “When are you going to stop lying about me?” “Why,” was the prompt reply, “I’ll stop right away. I’ll go to the office at once and write the truth about you!”
Google News Archive
10 December 1941, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “On Broadway” by Walter Winchell, pg. 15, col. 1:
Gene Buck’s sarcastic squelch at the ASCAP meeting—for those music publishers who tried to get him ousted: “If you don’t tell any lies about me—I promise not to tell the truth about you!”
Press, radio, television, periodicals, public relations, and advertising as seen through institutes and special occasions of the Henry W. Grady school of journalism, 1954-55
By John E Drewry
Athens, GA: University of Georgia
...about the old Senator from West Virginia. His opponent was going around telling some terrible stories about the Senator. So, the Senator sidled up to him one day, and said, “John, if you don’t quit telling them lies about me, I’m gonna start telling the truth about you.”
29 April 1973, Naugatuck (CT) Daily News, pg. 3, col. 2:
“Again I say to my opponent when you stop lying about me I’ll stop telling the truth about you.”
26 October 1994, Doylestown (PA) Intelligencer, pg. C9, col. 6:
When he saw Synar a few days before the runoff, Cooper told him, “You just keep lying about me and I’ll keep telling the truth about you, and we’ll see who gets elected.”
January/February 1999, Tampa Bay Magazine (FL), pg. 41, col. 1:
As one candidate told his opposition, “If you stop lying about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about you.”
Roadside New Mexico:
A guide to historic markers
By David Pike
Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press
In a luckless turn in 1893, a flood of the Pecos wiped out the infrastructure of the irrigation project. Even as crews reconstructed the canals, (James John) Hagerman and (Charles) Eddy disagreed on how operations should be run. Partners became enemies. “If you will quit lying about me,” Hagerman reportedly wrote Eddy, “I will quit telling the truth about you.”
Reagan and Gorbachev:
How the Cold War Ended
By Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks
His (Ronald Reagan—ed.) attitude echoed the comment Adlai Stevenson made in one of his election campaigns: “If you don’t stop telling lies about me. I’ll start telling the truth about you.”
Ben Smith’s Blog - Politico.com
September 12, 2008
‘Hitting hard’ on the issues
Carrie Budoff Brown reports that Obama was asked by a voter today in Dover, N.H., how he would fight back against Republican attacks.
He acknowledged that his supporters are “starting to get nervous,” but promised a bare-knuckles fight.
“Here is what I can guarantee you, that we are goign to be hitting back hard,” Obama said. “We have been hitting hard. But we are hitting back on the issues that matter to families. I am not going to start making up lies about John McCain. There is an old saying that Abraham Lincoln had about one of his opponents, he said if you don’t stop lying about me, I’m going to have to start telling the truth about you.”
Curious Defenses of the Goldstone Report
Posted by Alan M. Dershowitz on Feb 3rd, 2010
Or as Adlai Stevenson once promised a political opponent: “If you stop lying about me, I will stop telling the truth about you.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Wednesday, February 17, 2010 • Permalink