Media Blog

Honest Abe Meets Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly’s new book on Abraham Lincoln has been banned at the Ford’s theater gift shop:

Of all the places you’d expect to find Bill O’Reilly’s new history “Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever,” Ford’s Theatre — the site of the dreadful act — should rank right at the top. But you’d do better to search for the bestseller on Amazon because it has been banned from the theater’s store.

The crime? O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard have displayed a serial disregard for historical fact.

For a purported history of the assassination — an “unsanitized and uncompromising … no spin American story,” as the authors put it, “Killing Lincoln” is sloppy with the facts and slim on documentation, according to a study conducted by Rae Emerson, the deputy superintendent of Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, which is a unit of the National Park Service.

Other Lincoln experts also have sounded off. In a review published in the November issue of “North & South — The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society,” historian Edward Steers Jr. cites many instances where the book strays from documented history, then asks, “If the authors made mistakes in names, places, and events, what else did they get wrong? How can the reader rely on anything that appears in ‘Killing Lincoln’”?

By taking on Lincoln, O’Reilly and Dugard have set themselves up for avid scrutiny. Few presidents, indeed few subjects, are as voluminously researched and fought over as Lincoln, and have as many amateur and professional specialists eager to display their startling command of minutiae. Steers notes that more than 16,000 books and articles have been written about Lincoln, with more than 125 volumes on the assassination. Oddly, he adds, only eight of the assassination books have been written by professional historians, leaving the field, in his view, to be trampled on by amateurs like Reilly and Dugard.

The rest here.

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