AP Apologizes For Highlighting Jefferson Davis Quote In ‘Today In History’ Series

on December 31, 2013 in New York City.
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 19: A general view of the Associated Press Office on March 19, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)
June 16, 2020 1:22 p.m.

The Associated Press has apologized for publishing a quote from Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America, to be used in newspapers nationwide as part of its daily series called “Today in History.”

The quote, which read “Never be haughty to the humble; never be humble to the haughty,” ran on June 3, Davis’s birth date.

The newswire’s apology for the quote was first reported by the New York Times.

Today in History typically makes references to events that hold some relevance on the date in question and also flags the birthdays of famous people.

The AP’s selection of the quote is particularly jarring amid a global outcry against police brutality that also sparked anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by Minneapolis police last month. 

“AP is appalled that the Davis quote was distributed. It should never have happened,” Senior Media Relations Associate for AP Patrick Maks told TPM in an email. “As soon as AP was made aware of the quote, we eliminated it and replaced it with one from Franz Kafka. We are embarrassed that this happened and we apologize.”

Maks added that the AP is no longer including a “Thought for Today” which runs at the end of the “Today in History” feature and is a space for proverbs or quotations where the Davis remark was originally posted. The quote also appeared on the same day on four other occasions – 2008, 2012 and 2016, Maks said.

The unfolding of protests nationwide, has triggered calls denouncing Confederate iconography, including statues and paraphernalia. 

Last Wednesday, NASCAR banned Confederate flags from its events just as demonstrators tipped a statue of Davis in Richmond, Virginia. Another statue of Davis was removed in Frankfort, Kentucky on Monday with the help of the state’s governor Andy Beshear.

In spite of opposition from President Trump, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted on Thursday to require the Pentagon to scrub military bases and equipment of Confederate names, monuments or symbols within three years.

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