Essays

Bill Clinton Never Said “Butchers of Beijing”

How an iconic phrase was misattributed for thirty years – Zachary Haver

Then-candidate Bill Clinton criticizing President George H.W. Bush for coddling the “butchers of Beijing” remains one of the most striking moments of the 1992 US election. This denunciation was so biting it continues to receive media attention today. You can find the quote in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and just about any other news organization ranging from the mainstream to Breitbart. It appears in the writings of former secretaries of State, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, influential scholars and conservative firebrands. The phrase even materializes in foreign media on occasion, including in Chinese state-run papers. There is just one problem.

Bill Clinton never said “butchers of Beijing.”