Media Watch: Do You Know Your President’s IQ?

AN IQ OF 91?

Nothing as a student was more delicious than learning how somebody else scored on a test. To find out their IQ, of course, was like gaining the rare chance to feast at King Henry's table. So it is no surprise that a news release from a Pennsylvania think tank purporting to reveal the IQ's of our recent presidents would find a large audience. To Democrats especially the release was welcome news. According to the think tank -- the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton --"the six Republican presidents of the past 50 years had an average IQ of 115.5. The six Democrat presidents had IQs with an average of 156." (George W. came in dead last at 91. Bill Clinton came in first at 182.)

AN IQ of 182?

Now Scranton is not known for its think tanks and the results seemed a little too skewed in favor of Democrats to be entirely convincing, but so much else appeared reasonable that the release was not an obvious fake. And there were several nice touches. There was the claim that the Institute had been publishing"its research on each new president" since 1973; that gave the release the imprimatur of time. If you happened not to have heard of the Lovenstein report, well, that was a sign of your ignorance. Better not to confess it. Also persuasive was the claim that the researchers -- among them"world-renowned sociologist Dr. Werner R. Lovenstein, and Professor Patricia F. Dilliams -- had based their assessments, in part, on writings that the presidents"alone produced without aid of staff" and that the scores had been compiled on the basis of the"Swanson/Crain system of intelligence ranking." Swanson/Crain?

So persuasive was the release that it has made its way around the world via the Internet. (We at HNN received a copy as an email several weeks ago.) When it landed on the desk of an editor at the London Guardian in July he published the results, giving them mainstream credibility.


A few clicks on the computer and a phone call show it's a fraud. We checked with the phone company in Scranton; there is no listing for the Lovenstein Institute. We then consulted the Foundation Center in New York; no listing there either. Neither of the two"scholars" named in the release have ever published any books. (Do they even exist? Doubtful. Patricia F. Dilliams? Come on.) And a check of Lexis Nexis shows that the Lovenstein Institute has never issued a release in the past that garnered any media coverage; strange if it had been reporting presidential IQ's since 1973.

The Guardian, we discovered in our search, has since published a retraction. And a paper in Scranton has denied that such an institute has ever existed there.

But who was behind this hoax? That we have not been able to determine. HNN Columnist P. M. Carpenter suggested in an email to us that it was perhaps the work of a Republican eager to trap gullible Democrats and then embarrass them. The writer of the release did refer to the"Democrat" party, a circumlocution adopted by dyed-in-the-wool Republicans in the 1950s (and employed by Bob Dole as late as the 1996 campaign). But that was almost too obvious a clue, the kind Colombo discovers and dismisses in less time than it takes for the first commercial to arrive. And anyway, didn't Republicans learn their lesson a generation ago? Who would be so dumb as to follow in the footsteps of Donald Segretti?

But then, if not the Republicans ... who? Alas, the mystery remains unsolved.

Readers who have information about the source of the release or an idea who's behind it should send an email to: . We plan to stay on top of this History Mystery until we get some answers!

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Daniel Aday - 9/20/2003


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