Whatever its virtues, Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland contains a number of factual errors. In the weeks ahead, I shall note some of them. The first deals with the 1950 Democratic senatorial primary in Florida (p. 34):
George Smathers beat Florida senator Claude Pepper by accusing him of being a “sexagenarian,” committing “nepotism” with his sister-in-law, openly proud of a sister who Smathers said was a “thespian.”
No, the story is an urban legend. Apparently it started as a joke that Time magazine mistakenly reported as fact. An annoyed Smathers offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he ever said any such thing. When he died in 2007, no one had ever claimed the money.