I don't talk politics in my blog for two reasons. First, because there are plenty of people on the Innertubes willing to do that for me. And second, because my political opinions are not very interesting. But I don't suppose it will shock anybody if I mention that I think Richard Nixon was a terrible president.
Still, fair is fair. In my research for the next novel, I discovered that I've been misquoting the man for decades. As have so many of us when we cite his reaction to seeing the Great Wall as, "It is indeed a great wall."
I use that quote, in fact, as an epigram at the head of the penultimate chapter of my book.
Here, however was what he actually said :
I can only say to the media, who, like myself, have never seen the Great Wall before, that it exceeds all expectations. When one stands there and sees the Wall going to the peak of this mountain and realizes that it runs for hundreds of miles, as a matter of fact thousands of miles, over the mountains and through the valleys of this country, that it was built over 2,000 years ago, I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall and that it had to be built by a great people.
It turns out that the wonderful piece of absurdity I've been quoting so long was created by cutting a clause out of its context. So, for my very small part in perpetuating that untruth, I hereby apologize.
But will I cut the quote from my novel? No. It's a work of fiction, and when writing fiction my primary loyalty is not to the truth but to the text.
You can read the entirety of Richard Nixon's remarks, if you wish, here.