WASHINGTON — Sarah Palin insisted Sunday that history was on her side when she claimed that Paul Revere's famous ride was intended to warn both British soldiers and his fellow colonists.
"You realize that you messed up about Paul Revere, don't you?" ''Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace asked the potential 2012 presidential candidate.
"I didn't mess up about Paul Revere," replied Palin, a paid contributor to the network.
AP Photo/Steven Senne
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stands near her tour bus outside a hotel in Boston, Thursday.
"Part of his ride was to warn the British that were 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," she added. "He did warn the British."
Palin, who again said she has not decided whether to run for president, was asked about the Revolutionary War hero during a stop Thursday in Boston on her East Coast bus tour.
"He who warned the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms by ringing those bells, and makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed."
Palin's brush with the nation's history came toward the end of her "One Nation" bus tour that generated intense interest as she traveled from Washington to New England. Along the way, she steadfastly refused "a million times" to say whether she was running for president.
"I'm publicizing Americana and our foundation and how important it is that we learn about our past and our challenges and victories throughout American history, so that we can successfully proceed forward," Palin said in the broadcast interview. "It's not a campaign tour."
And was she leaning toward or against running, Palin was asked?
"Still right there in the middle," she said.
There's no ambiguity about the interest Palin generates, a point that doesn't sit comfortably in some quarters of a party without a clear front-runner to face President Barack Obama next year.
Palin's closely watched bus trip is a key example. Its camera-ready events competed for coverage in the same week and region as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's formal entry into the race. His candidacy is perhaps the most formidable of the emerging field.
Asked Sunday whether he could envision supporting Palin for president, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former hopeful, told "Face the Nation" on CBS: "If Barack Obama was the head of the other ticket, I could."
For her part, Palin was contrite.
"I apologize if I stepped on any, any of that PR that Mitt Romney needed or wanted that day," Palin said. "I do sincerely apologize. I didn't mean to step on anybody's toes."
While she continued to insist that she wasn't competing for anything in particular, Palin said she would welcome Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, another Republican with tea party appeal, to the race.
"More competition, the better," Palin said.
For now, Palin is clearly grappling with the downside of celebrity.
Even her otherwise successful media events can leave lingering questions about Palin's grasp of — and interest in — history, public policy and other subjects of substance.
On Sunday, Palin insisted she was right about the purpose of Revere's famous "midnight ride."
"I know my American history," she told Wallace.
The colonists at the time of Revere's ride were British subjects, with American independence still in the future. But Revere's own writing and other historical accounts leave little doubt that secrecy was vital to his mission.
The Paul Revere House's website says that on April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, a patriot leader in the Boston area, instructed Revere to ride to Lexington, Mass., to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were marching to arrest them.
In an undated letter posted by the Massachusetts Historical Society, Revere later wrote of the need to keep his activities secret and his suspicion that a member of his tight circle of planners had become a British informant. According to the letter, believed to have been written around 1798, Revere did provide some details of the plan to the soldiers that night, but after he had notified other colonists and under questioning by the Redcoats.
Intercepted and surrounded by British soldiers on his way from Lexington to Concord, Revere revealed "there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the country all the way up," he wrote.
Revere was probably bluffing the soldiers about the size of any advancing militia, since he had no way of knowing, according to Joel J. Miller, author of "The Revolutionary Paul Revere." And while he made bells, Revere would never have rung any on that famous night because the Redcoats were under orders to round up people just like him.
"He was riding off as quickly and as quietly as possible," Miller said. "Paul Revere did not want the Redcoats to know of his mission at all."