turn a blind eye

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Admiral Horatio Nelson said this when wilfully disobeying a signal to withdraw during a naval engagement.

You know, Foley, I have only one eye - and I have a right to be blind sometimes... I really do not see the signal. 1809, Life of Nelson


turn a blind eye

  1. (idiomatic) To ignore or deliberately overlook, especially with respect to something unpleasant or improper, to look the other way. To knowingly refuse to acknowledge something which you know to be real.
    The mother turned a blind eye to her son's mischief as she expected him not to repeat it.
    • 1880, James Jackson Jarves, "Future American Art," New York Times, 11 Oct., p. 2:
      In this my countrymen, without having produced any really very great work, by the old standards, make a respectable show. . . . In saying this, however, we must turn a blind eye to a considerable number of statues of our distinguished citizens which even more lamentably exhibit the defects arising from ignorance of modeling and design.