“I was provided with additional input that was radically different from the truth. I assisted in furthering that version,” Colonel Oliver North said in his Iran-Contra testimony.
“If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very low crime rate,” Marion Barry, mayor of Washington, D.C., was quoted as saying.
“I haven’t committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law,” said New York City mayor David Dinkins when answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes.
“The president has kept all of the promises he intended to keep,” said Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
“It isn’t pollution that is hurting the environment, it’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it,” Dan Quayle said.
Quayle was also quoted as saying: “We are not ready for an unforeseen event that may or may not occur;” “I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix;” and “What a waste to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”
Foot-in-mouth disease is, of course, not limited to politicians. After finishing her first novel, Ivana Trump reported, “Fiction writing is great. You can make up almost anything.”
Former professional quarterback and sports analyst Joe Theisman said, “The word ‘genius’ isn’t applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”
And Lee Iacocca once reportedly said: “We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?”
Before we laugh too long or too loudly, we need only think back a day or so, or maybe a couple of hours, to find something equally absurd we have said.
We all fall victim to the occasional verbal misstep, some of us more frequently than others. Fortunately for most of us, it’s never reported or published. Yet our words can have the same degree of power and impact.
Most importantly, they both reflect and affect our relationships with God and others.
They can bring embarrassment or encouragement, hurt or healing, confusion or clarity. With our words we can promote strife or help bring about peace.
Wise is the person who has learned to use speech positively and productively, the writer of Proverbs said. By beginning with pure motives, choosing our words carefully and speaking truthfully, we can affirm others and help redeem conflict-ridden situations.
And sometimes, the best words are those which go unspoken.
“I have never been hurt by what I have not said,” Calvin Coolidge acknowledged.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.