Fact check: Jon Meacham's attributed quote to Clifford Walker, at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan


  • In his “Address to the Nation”, Donald Trump spoke about a “steel barrier” against immigrants at the southern border
  • Jon Meacham recalled a statement of Clifford Walker about a “wall of steel” in a speech to the KKK in 1924
  • Media read this as an equation of Donald Trumps thoughts and the KKK
  • Trump and Walker, using the same words, did not speak about the same thing.

Jon Meacham, the American author wrote a tweet quoting Georgia Gov. Clifford Walker , claimed the following:

Jon Meacham on Twitter

America should “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven” against the flow of immigrants.–Georgia Gov. Clifford Walker, at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan, then a powerful force at a time of strain for the white working class. #PastIsPrologue

Six houres earlier, President Donald Trump had issued his Address to the Nation on the Crisis at the Border. In context of the cost for a physical barrier, he claimed: “At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer responded: “We can secure our border without an expensive, ineffective wall.”

Claim:

Georgia Governor George Walker said “America should ‘build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven’ against the flow of immigrants” at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan.

Fact Check: Mostly true.

The full text of  “Proceedings of the Second Imperial Klonvocation of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, held in Kansas City, MO in September 1924” includes Clifford Walker’s speech, the following passage contains the direct quotation in Meacham’s claim:

“I would build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven, against the admission of a single one of those Southern Europeans who never [thought?] the thoughts or spoke the language of a democracy in their [illegible].”

Part of the claim is literally true:
Walker said “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven.”

Part of the claim can be considered true, provided that “America should” and “I would” are analogous:
Walker said that America should “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven.”

Part of the claim is somewhat misleading:
Walker was concerned about Southern European immigrants specifically in this quotation. By hash-tagging his tweet “#PastIsPrologue”, Meacham established a connection between the 1924 statement and the present time. This sheds a light on the underlying meaning of the statement Meacham had  in mind when tweeting.
At present time, the predominating topic on the political stage is the endeavour of the President to achieve the financing of a wall along the US-Mexico border. It is possible that the public will interpret “the wall” referenced in the quotation as a real, physical one. However, Walker’s “wall” is to be taken symbolically. This becomes obvious only in the context that Meacham’s statement excluded:
Walker continued: “I would go further. I would place not only every one of those [that?] shall come here in the future, but every one of those of recent about whom there is any doubt as to their loyalty, on probation. I would let them…go to school in the academy of democracy…and if at the end of that reasonable time he did not speak our language and did not qualify as a one hundred percent American, then I would, if necessary, send them back across the ocean.”

To summarize, the claim that Walker said at a 1924 convention of the KKK that “America should ‘build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven’ against the flow of immigrants” is true. However, the notion that the referenced “wall” should be understood to be a material one, is false.

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