U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has gone viral — but for something that he did not actually say.
National media outlets have pounced on an article from Birmingham’s CBS 42, a Nexstar station, that quoted Tuberville as saying, “We probably could have had a swearing-in and inauguration later after we got this virus behind us a little bit. Again, we’re talking about Washington, D.C.”
“However, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution requires that the inauguration and swearing-in of a new President take place on January 20th. It wasn’t clear if Tuberville was aware of that during the interview,” CBS 42 wrote directly following that quote.
There are two major issues at play here. The words attributed to Tuberville were a significant misquote, and the 20th Amendment does not actually mandate an inauguration to occur on a certain date — or at all.
The relevant section of the 20th Amendment only states that the “terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January” every four years.
Additionally, Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution mandates the following: “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: – ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'”
There is no mention of an “inauguration” or any form of swearing-in ceremony in the Constitution, nor is there a requirement that the president take the oath of office in any type of public setting at all. President-elect Joe Biden could take the oath of office in his basement at noon on January 20 while being in line with both what Tuberville is alleged to have said and his constitutional duties.
However, getting back to the main issue here — media outlets have fabricated what Tuberville said.
The CBS 42 article that contains the misquote was posted at 8:47 p.m. CT on January 13. As of noon on Friday, January 15, no correction had been made.
This comes despite the fact that the very same article features video footage of what Tuberville actually said.
“I think we’ll have a new president,” Tuberville affirmed.
Then, speaking about the traditional, in-person inauguration ceremony, he continued, “I don’t know how big it’s going to be. We probably could have had the swearing-in and done an inauguration a little later on, after we’ve got this virus behind us a little bit. But again, we’re talking about Washington, D.C.”
Other outlets across the state and world have spread the misquote, however, while also botching what the 20th Amendment says. This includes al(dot)com, whose headline incorrectly reads: “Tuberville says delay inauguration, but date is set by Constitution.”
Additional examples of outlets both misquoting Tuberville and not understanding the 20th Amendment were CNN, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.
And of course, there is Twitter itself amplifying the misinformation by creating a “trending” moment about Tuberville.
A gender studies professor at Duke, who admittedly dislikes Tuberville, decried the situation in a Twitter thread:
“I despise Tuberville, but we should quote people accurately and plausibly interpret the accurate quotations. We also have enough to worry about without inventing new outrageous statements. Delaying Biden’s presidency isn’t what he said. It isn’t what meant. Stop saying it,” the professor wrote.
UPDATE 1:45 p.m.
Following Yellowhammer News’ article, CBS 42 updated their story to reflect the correct quote at 1:32 p.m., however they have not made a note in the article explaining the nature of the update or noting the original mistake.
UPDATE 4:35 p.m.
CBS 42 at 4:21 p.m. posted the following as a “clarification” on its article: “In a previous version of this article, two words were omitted in a quote attributed to Sen. Tommy Tuberville. The article has since been updated with the addition of those two words, ‘done’ and ‘an.’ The story has also been updated with a statement from the senator’s spokeswoman.”
That “statement from the senator’s spokeswoman” reads as follows: “It’s incorrect to interpret the Senator’s comments as calling for the postponement the actual act of swearing-in President-elect Biden. The Senator spent the last two days visiting with Alabama medical care providers to receive updates on the ongoing pandemic. Understanding the widely recognized health and safety concerns regarding large gatherings, the Senator was suggesting the public gathering for inaugural ceremonies could be reconsidered. As the Senator has previously said, President-elect Biden will take over next week.”
This came after Tuberville tweeted about the issue:
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn