"Why Let Facts Get In The Way Of A Good
by The Cranky Media Guy
Before we go any further, I feel like I should explain a thing or
two. I am not a Nixon fan. It's hard to like a
guy who tried (and succeeded in a few cases) to send you and all
your able-bodied friends off to Vietnam. I mean, bad stuff
could happen to you over there back then, like you could get your
thorax impaled on a sharp bamboo stick covered with poop. That
hardly ever happened in the Bronx, even on the D train. Ah,
but I digress.
There's this British guy named Summers who's written a book about
Richard Nixon. I won't mention the name of the book here for
two good reasons.
1: I don't want to give the guy a plug. Shoddy work doesn't
deserve free publicity. If you're really determined to read
the book, you can find the name of it yourself.
2: I forgot the name of the stupid book.
Anyway, Summers is making the rounds of the talk show circuit
because in his book he claims that, while in office, Nixon took
Xanax, a mood-altering drug and that Tricky Dick smacked his wife
around on at least one occasion.
Like I said, I'm no Nixon fan, so normally I'd enjoy a good
Nixon-as-a-junkie-wife-beater story as much as the next guy.
The problem is that the author admits that his "source"
for the allegations is third-hand. Basically, he says that
someone he trusts knew a guy who knew Nixon very well and that
guy said the stories were true. What the hell is that?
Is this supposed to be journalism or grade school? I mean,
that's on the level of "Janie told me that Billy said that you
The fact that Richard Nixon was a lying, paranoid, sweaty jerk
who is currently getting his mail delivered at the Great Beyond is
no excuse for employing journalistic technique that would make the
editors of the National Enquirer blanch. If you've got the
goods on the guy, by all means say so. If the best you can do
is "I heard from my cousin who knows a guy who sat next to
Nixon on a plane once" well, drop it and move on. That
ain't a source, that's a rumor. Why not just hire a
"psychic", have him or her get in touch with the Dickster
on the Other Side and ask him when he stopped beating his
wife? (Hey, I think I just invented a new kind of book--the
"post life biography".) That's the kind of thing the
Enquirer would have no trouble with at all.
Seriously, just because you're writing about a person who did a
number of highly questionable things during his life doesn't mean
that you get to say whatever you want about the schmuck.
Little things like "facts" and "proof" should be
important to you, assuming you want to be taken seriously, that is.
We shouldn't be surprised by all of this, however: Summers has
specialized in hatchet jobs, tearing apart J. Edgar Hoover, Marilyn
Monroe, and others.
Hey, Summers, instead of writing about dead presidents, why don't
you stay in the U.K. and write about that jug-eared band of welfare
cheats, the Royal Family? Here's a tip: A guy I know has a
barber who met a guy who went to England and that guy says
the Queen is really a man. Commence typing!