At a stop in New England on her bus tour of the United States, Palin made the following statement about Paul Revere's historic ride:
“He who warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and by making sure that as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed," she said.
On Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace confronted her about this statement. Here's the excerpt of that interview:
WALLACE: You realized that you messed up about Paul Revere, don't you?
PALIN: You know what? I didn't mess up about Paul Revere. Here is what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming, and they were going to try take our arms and we got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn't take it. But remember that the British had already been there, many soldiers for seven years in that area. And part of Paul Revere's ride -- and it wasn't just one ride -- he was a courier, he was a messenger. Part of his ride was to warn the British that we're already there. That, hey, you're not going to succeed. You're not going to take American arms. You are not going to beat our own well- armed persons, individual, private militia that we have. He did warn the British. And in a shout-out, gotcha type of question that was asked of me, I answered candidly. And I know my American history.
So, was Palin right? The answer is: Kind of.
Palin has made some unique claims about Paul Revere's ride that can be analyzed in two separate categories for their truth or falsehood. One is generally true; the other is generally false.
Claim 1: Paul Revere warned the British.
Analysis: The best evidence that could be construed as "warning the British" comes from Revere's being stopped by several British soldiers in the middle of his famous ride. Revere, in his own words, recalled telling the soldiers during his brief detainment that "There would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up."
Verdict: True, with an explanation. Though not the purpose of his ride, Revere did bluff to soldiers about the number of Americans about to descend upon them. However, it is possible to consider this a "warning" of a secure, free and armed people ready to defend themselves.
Claim 2: Paul Revere fired warning shots and rang bells to warn the British.
Analysis: During his so-called "midnight ride," Revere was unarmed, making it difficult for him to fire "warning shots" and there's no mention of him firing shots in either his account or any of the major historical accounts of his ride. There is mention, however, of other people engaging in these behaviors after hearing Revere's message. "Bells rang, drums beat -- 'The regulars are out!'" Historian Esther Forbes wrote in the Pulitizer Prize-winning "Paul Revere and the World He Lived in" of the reaction of Revere's news in Lexington. "Men seized muskets and powder horns. Other men mounted and road off to other towns to carry the warning."
Verdict: False, with an explanation. It's possible Palin simply misspoke here and was referring to the reaction Revere engendered in those he warned. It's also possible Palin was talking about Revere's former job as a bell-ringer in Christ's Church or the fact that church was the sight of the famous "One if by land; two if by sea" lights. In any case, these actions were certainly not intended as a warning to the British, but as a warning to other Americans that the British were on a mission to seize American arms. Revere was also trying to warn his compatriots Samuels Adams and John Hancock, who were located in Lexington, of British soldiers who planned to arrest them.
Overall verdict: Kind of true. Palin got some parts of the story right, but others wrong. Perhaps it was merely a problem of overemphasizing some facts and misspeaking about others. In any event, it wasn't nearly as idiotic a comment as some have tried to make it out to be, but it definitely wasn't completely accurate as Palin would like us to believe.
Here's Palin's initial statement about Paul Revere:
Here's her defense of the statement in the interview with Wallace on Sunday:
Here's the full interview with Chris Wallace: