Meme Misattributes Quote on Afghanistan to Trump
By Saranac Hale Spencer and Angelo Fichera
Posted on September 3, 2021
A viral meme falsely claims that former President Donald Trump suggested that the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was an orchestrated distraction by Democrats. A spokesperson for Trump has denied he made that remark. A very similar statement, not attributed to the former president, previously went viral on Facebook.
Former President Donald Trump hasn’t minced words about his thoughts on how the end of the war in Afghanistan has played out.
Trump, whose administration reached an agreement with the Taliban in early 2020 that set the U.S. withdrawal from that country into motion, has repeatedly criticized his successor, President Joe Biden, for the way it ended.
But a viral meme, shared by thousands on social media, is erroneously claiming that the 45th president suggested the events in Afghanistan were a distraction by Democrats — perhaps to divert attention from some other, vague plot.
“Do Not Be Distracted By All This Going On In Afghanistan,” the purported quote misattributed to Trump reads. “Always Keep One Eye On Washington D.C. A Magician Always Distracts His Audience. And We All Know That Democrats Are Very Good Magicians.”
Above the quote is a snapshot showing a Fox News segment in which Trump was interviewed by phone. The same graphic can be seen in a March Fox News segment in which Trump spoke with host Maria Bartiromo about the U.S. southern border — not Afghanistan. We found no instances of Trump making the now-viral statement in that interview or elsewhere.
Trump’s office didn’t respond to our inquiry, but a spokesperson confirmed to USA Today that the quote didn’t come from the former president — pointing instead to an Aug. 24 statement Trump did make, criticizing Biden.
We found that a Texas-based home inspector posted essentially the same quote on Facebook on Aug. 17.
“Don’t put all of your attention on Afghanistan. Keep one eye on D.C. during this. A magician always distracts his audience,” Billy Ball wrote.
Ball’s post garnered more than 420,000 shares, a significantly higher number than most of the posts on Ball’s page. The same day, another Facebook user shared the same post, accruing another 216,000 shares.
In a Facebook message to us, Ball said he came up with the quote himself, and said he was unaware that it had been misattributed to Trump.
Ball — who described himself as a Trump supporter who likes “stirring the pot” — said he suspected the post went viral because “[p]olitics are crazy.”
Ball, Billy. Facebook message to FactCheck.org. 31 Aug 2021.
Creitz, Charles. “Former President Trump tells ‘Fox News Primetime’ massive migrant influx will ‘destroy our country.’” Fox News. 16 Mar 2021.
Kiely, Eugene and Robert Farley. “Timeline of U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan.” FactCheck.org. 17 Aug 2021.
Sadeghi, McKenzie. “Fact check: Quote about Afghanistan, Democrats in Washington falsely attributed to Donald Trump.” USA Today. 26 Aug 2021.