The truth is like Silly Putty: you can stretch it, mold it and use it to destroy someone's life.
Just ask anyone who's ever run a nasty smear campaign; a good, juicy lie or half-truth about someone can not only follow them to the grave, but can echo down through history long after.
Just look at how the following "historical facts"--all complete bullshit--have continued to show up in print for centuries after the subject has passed away.
Napoleon Was Really, Really Short
Quick, let's do word association. When we say "Napoleon" you say the first word that comes to mind.
About 20 percent of you just said, "French!" and the other 80 percent said, "short!"
Yes, in a world where our hazy history education won't let most of us quote even five facts about the guy, what we all know is that he was a tiny, tiny little man.
Now, it's true Bonaparte didn't tower over anyone. For instance, he was shorter than the Imperial Guards he was often seen with (who had a height requirement, since like all such guards through history part of their job was to look intimidating).
But most agree that Bonaparte was almost 5' 7", which was in fact just above average for the early 19th century (and wouldn't exactly make him a freak even now).
The French, however, used a slightly different system that listed the emperor at 5'2". And that appears to be the source of the whole "Napoleon as midget" image. When word got back to England that the terror of France was only a tick taller than five baguettes, the British propaganda machine had a field day. After all, it's much easier to win a battle when you imagine the other guy's Marty McFly and you're Biff Tannen.