In a series of “Debunker” columns from a few years back, Ken Jennings shattered a few beloved myths about the presidency—Abraham Lincoln didn’t write the Gettysburg Address on an envelope, JFK didn’t kill the hat. So why take on four more White House whitewashes this month? It’s a matter of some urgency: Ken has a fun new book out this month about such matters. So get ready to whistle along to “Fail to the Chief” as KJ blows up everything you thought you knew about the leader of the free world.
The Debunker: Did George Washington Chop Down a Cherry Tree?
It’s the most morally edifying story from American history involving a hatchet. (Distant second place: Lizzie Borden.) A six-year-old George Washington, “immoderately fond” of his new present, uses it to chop down a “beautiful young English cherry-tree” on his family estate. His father is angrily trying to track down the culprit…when master criminal George walks into the room still holding the hatchet. “George, do you know who killed that cherry tree yonder in the garden?” Dad asks. “I can’t tell a lie, Pa,” says young George. “I did cut it with my hatchet.” Of course his father is so proud of his son’s guileless honesty that George suffers no consequences for his vandalism.