Much of what we know about Christopher Columbus is fake news that was written by Washington Irving in 1828. Irving, in his introduction, says he wants to present Columbus as an American hero and an exemplar of "human genius and laudable enterprise," to "vindicate great names" rather than "casting down its monuments."

So he left out anything unflattering, like the first-hand reports from Bartolome de las Casas that Columbus ordered his men "to cut off the legs of children who ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades."

And he filled his book with claptrap. Did you know that no-one in Europe thought the Earth was round? False: it was well known before Columbus. Did you hear that Native Americans lived "without laws" in a state of "ignorant content, and loitering idleness"? That's Irving's fantasy. Columbus's own journal mentions a village of 1000 people, meetings with chiefs, a rumored king, and "great quantities of cotton gathered, spun, and worked up."

Columbus so appalled his contemporaries that he was brought back to Spain in chains after a royal investigation. As Italian-Americans, we can find better role models than this "Son of Genoa" who transferred his allegiance to Spain before decimating the Caribbean. How about Angela Bambace, Antonio Meucci, Enrico Fermi, or Frank Zappa?

— Christopher Nicolai