Daniel Dale is CNN’s fact-checker, and he identified a huge blunder by Representative Tom Massie, a Republican from Kentucky. Earlier this week, a reader asked whether anyone should trust a person who declares “I am science,” and I didn’t know that he was referring to the tweet cited here. I thought it was a real question, not an unsubtle way of slamming Dr. Fauci.

Daniel Dale writes:

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, has been a vocal critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, who also serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser.On Sunday, Massie sarcastically tweeted, “You mustn’t question Fauci, for he is science.” Under those words, Massie posted an image that featured a giant hand crushing a group of much smaller people. The image includes a quote it attributed to Voltaire, the 18th-century Enlightenment writer and philosopher: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Facts First: There is no record of Voltaire ever uttering these words. The quote is commonly attributed to Kevin Alfred Strom, a neo-Nazi who pleaded guilty in 2008 to possession of child pornography. Strom uttered a similar quote during a virulently antisemitic 1993 radio broadcast. 

Strom said in the 1993 broadcast: “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?” The context in which he posed the question made clear that this was a reference to Jewish people. 

The false Voltaire attribution for the quote has circulated online for years. The attribution has been debunked in numerouspreviousfact checks and in a 2017 blog post by scholar Nicholas Cronk, director of Oxford University’s Voltaire Foundation. Edward Langille, a St. Francis Xavier University professor of French and co-author of the book “The Quotable Voltaire,” also told CNN on Monday that the quote did not come from Voltaire.

Massie’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. As of Monday afternoon, his tweet had been retweeted more than 6,800 times. It remained online without any correction, even though others had been replying for more than 22 hours to note that the attribution was wrong.