President Barack Obama is being taken to task for falsely suggesting Thursday that President Rutherford B. Hayes had no interest in technology. In fact, as Politico pointed out, Hayes put the first phone in the White House.
The Washington Post awarded the president four Pinocchios for his comments about Hayes, in part due to a snarky add-on suggesting that Hayes' practice of looking backward is responsible for his absence from Mt. Rushmore.
Beyond the Telephone
Contrary to Obama's assertion, Hayes was interested enough in the advance of technology that he invited Thomas Edison to the White House, the Washington Post reported. Edison showed the president how the phonograph worked. Hayes was also the first president to bring a typewriter into the White House, the Rutherford B. Hayes presidential center notes.
Unlikely Attack Target
Although Hayes was a Republican, back when he was president, 1876 to 1880, the two major political parties differed only slightly. When it came to social policy, Hayes took positions that not only mirror the Democratic tradition but show forward thinking. He used troops to protect freed slaves; he negotiated with Southern leaders for civil rights protections for black citizens; and he authorized the first woman lawyer to argue before the Supreme Court.
Obama's Historical Challenges
Maligning Rutherford wasn't Obama's first mistake of historical proportions.
* Obama made his first historical mistake as president in his inaugural address when he referred to himself as the 44th president to take the oath of office. He was actually the 43rd due to Grover Cleveland serving two non-contiguous terms, Real Clear Politics noted.
* Obama once referred to American troops liberating Auschwitz, which was in fact liberated by the Soviets.
* One of Obama's more notorious historical errors was referring to the Transcontinental Railroad as the Intercontinental Railroad, erroneously indicating it spanned multiple continents.
* In 2008, Obama told Oregon supporters he'd been to 57 states, had one left to go, and hadn't been to Alaska and Hawaii, on the campaign trail.
* It's not just national history, but his personal history that sometimes confounds Obama. He said in one speech cited by WGST the Selma, Ala., march enabled his parents to marry and bring him into the world despite their racial difference. Obama was born four years before the Selma march.