On August 18 2021, an Imgur user shared the following meme, which purports to contain a legitimate quote from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt saying he recommended a “law prohibiting all corporations” from contributing to political campaigns:
To the left of a black and white image of Roosevelt, text read:
“I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to campaign expenses of any party.”
Neither a date nor specific context for the purported Roosevelt quote appeared on the meme, and his stated disdain for corporations felt like something of an anachronism. Initial searches for the phrasing in quotations hinted at a shaky attribution, as only five results were returned — primarily from sources like meme aggregator iFunny.
One of the five results linked to the text of an unrelated Flickr post; that iteration “cited” a Facebook post of the same black-and-white meme, shared on January 30 2021. An initially promising result hid behind a paywall from Pennsylvania’s Bedford Gazette, dated December 7 1906. Several “matches” were highlighted, but not visible, underneath a headline reading “ANNUAL MESSAGE”:
December 7 1906 was very soon after Roosevelt’s 1906 State of the Union Address, which took place on December 3 1906. Transcriptions of Roosevelt’s 1906 State of the Union were not widely distributed online, but textbook manufacturer Pearson’s InfoPlease.com provided one.
Roosevelt’s quote (“I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party”) appeared in the first few lines of the entry and address:
Theodore Roosevelt (December 3, 1906)
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
As a nation we still continue to enjoy a literally unprecedented prosperity; and it is probable that only reckless speculation and disregard of legitimate business methods on the part of the business world can materially mar this prosperity.
No Congress in our time has done more good work of importance than the present Congress. There were several matters left unfinished at your last session, however, which I most earnestly hope you will complete before your adjournment.
I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party. Such a bill has already past one House of Congress. Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly.
Another bill which has just past one House of the Congress and which it is urgently necessary should be enacted into law is that conferring upon the Government the right of appeal in criminal cases on questions of law.
That transcription incidentally explained the small number of results linking the meme with copies of the speech; the meme’s maker inadvertently left out a “the” in “the campaign expenses of any party.” A bracketed search for “I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party” returned a still-scant 327 results, but more than the five returned searching the exact text of the meme.
A meme with the claim that Teddy Roosevelt once said “I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to campaign expenses of any party” was shared to Imgur on August 18 2021, with no attribution. Rendering of the quotation absent a single word (“the”) further obscured the origin and veracity of the quote. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt did say he recommended “a law prohibiting all corporpations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party,” phrasing evident in transcriptions of his December 3 1906 State of the Union Address.