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Sen. Rand Paul: ‘Misinformation Works, So Try to Trick Your Opponents’

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Video from 2013 shows Sen. Rand Paul advising students that "misinformation works" and is a "great tactic."

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On January 13 2022, a thread on r/politics claimed that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) had once told students that “misinformation works” and is a “great tactic”:

Rand Paul Seen on Video Telling Students ‘Misinformation Works’ and ‘Is a Great Tactic’ from politics

That thread linked to a January 12 2022 Newsweek.com article with the same title as the Reddit post. It read in part:

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that “misinformation” could be a “great tactic” during a speech to a group of medical school students in 2013.

In a video shared to Twitter by epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding on [January 12 2022], the Kentucky Republican can be seen telling students that “misinformation works” during an Aug. 22, 2013, lecture at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

A student asked Paul, who worked as an ophthalmologist for many years before entering politics, for advice on taking a midterm exam. Paul responded by recalling his own college strategy of using misinformation to “trick” fellow students that he viewed as “opponents.”

Newsweek.com cited, but did not link, a tweet by epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding. That tweet was threaded under a separate tweet about Paul, published on January 11 2022, and featured video of the commentary described in the Reddit post:

A Google search for “misinformation works” and “so try to trick your opponents” returned just 17 results, largely from January 12 and 13 2022. A 2017 entry on a quotations site transcribed Paul’s remarks in part, and that indicated that at least one person had noticed the commentary prior to Feigl-Ding’s January 2022 tweet:

… I never, ever cheated [in medical school]. I don’t condone cheating. But I would sometimes spread misinformation. This is a great tactic. Misinformation can be very important. We spread the rumor that we knew what was on the test and it was definitely going to be all about the liver. We tried to trick all of our competing students into over-studying for the liver. So, that’s my advice. Misinformation works.

A citation on the post was dated to 2013, but led us to a paywalled National Journal article headlined, “The Truthiness of Rand Paul.” Another result was an October 20 2013 Facebook post by The Atlantic, which led to an article published the same date — “Can Rand Paul Learn to Tell the Truth?”

It began:

Rand Paul was talking with University of Louisville medical students when one of them tossed him a softball. “The majority of med students here today have a comprehensive exam tomorrow. I’m just wondering if you have any last-minute advice.”

“Actually, I do,” said the ophthalmologist-turned-senator, who stays sharp (and keeps his license) by doing pro bono eye surgeries during congressional breaks. “I never, ever cheated. I don’t condone cheating. But I would sometimes spread misinformation. This is a great tactic. Misinformation can be very important.”

He went on to describe studying for a pathology test with friends in the library. “We spread the rumor that we knew what was on the test and it was definitely going to be all about the liver,” he said.

“We tried to trick all of our competing students into over-studying for the liver” and not studying much else.

“So, that’s my advice,” he concluded. “Misinformation works.”

Paul’s little riff had the students laughing hard. And it was amusing—but also amazing. Why would he set himself up with an anecdote like that? He knew reporters were in the lecture hall. He’s also well aware that watchdogs are compiling a growing file of evidence that he plays loose with the facts. He had offered a few examples to the students that very afternoon.

Although Feigl-Ding didn’t provide a specific source for the clip, it appeared to originate with a video shared to YouTube in September 2013. At the 36-minute mark, Paul fielded the question in the excerpt above, making the remarks about how “misinformation works.”

A description for the video read:

On Thursday August 22nd [2013], the Benjamin Rush Institute Student Chapter enthusiastically welcomed Kentucky State Senator Rand Paul at the University of Louisville School of Medicine as our first official guest. Before approximately 200 attendees, including medical students, residents, faculty physicians and instructors, dental, nursing, and public health students, Senator Paul delivered an informative presentation, taking ample time for questions. His interaction was constructive and educational, and brought positive attention to University of Louisville School of Medicine.

A January 2022 tweet by epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding accused Rand Paul of approvingly telling a group of students in 2013 that “misinformation works.” The video was real and accurately described, originating with an August 2013 lecture Paul presented at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. In 2013, the commentary was the subject of at least two articles.