The Huffington Post Alana Horowitz First Posted: 11/13/11 02:28 PM ET Updated: 11/15/11 07:57 PM ET
Bill O’Reilly is no stranger to controversy. This time, though, his new book is the focus of intense criticism.
As Salon’s Justin Elliott first reported, «Killing Lincoln», which he co-authored with Martin Dugard, is riddled with factual inaccuracies. The National Park Service outed the mistakes in a recent review and recommended that Ford’s Theater bookstores not sell the book. One of the bookstores banned, while the other continues to sell it.
In one instance, the book claims Ford’s Theatre was burned down in 1863 when it was actually destroyed in the end of 1862. The book contains multiple references to Lincoln in the Oval Office, which wasn’t built until decades after his death. It also includes the line «He furls his brow»; furl is a nautical term, the correct word is furrows.
Despite being second on the New York Times’ bestseller list, «Killing Lincoln» has taken heat from a slew of critics. Christian Science Monitor’s Jackie Hogan chastises the book for covering up negative aspects of Lincoln’s presidency in favor of a good story. As she puts it, «style and image often take precedence over evidence and substance.» She also calls the book «sensationalized, suggestive, and overly simplistic.»
Noted historian Eric Foner told the Washington Post that, “I would not be surprised if there were historical errors as [O’Reilly] is better known as a TV polemicist than as a scholar.»
In September, O’Reilly told Fox and Friends that he didn’t want to write just another «boring history book.» Mission accomplished, then.
Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Lincoln’ not for sale at Ford’s Theatre museum bookstore
By Steven Levingston, Published: November 12
Of all the places you’d expect to find Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever,” Ford’s Theatre, the site of the dreadful act, should rank at the top. But you’d do better to search for the history bestseller on Amazon.com, because you won’t find it at the theater’s museum bookstore.For a history of the assassination — an “unsanitized and uncompromising . . . no spin American story,” as O’Reilly and coauthor Martin Dugard put it, “Killing Lincoln” suffers from factual errors and a lack of 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. Emerson’s review recommended that the book not be sold at Ford Theatre’s NPS store.
(Henry Holt & Co.) – \»Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever\» by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard.
While the National Park Service does not carry “Killing Lincoln” in the theater’s basement museum bookstore, Ford’s Theatre Society, which operates Ford’s Theatre in partnership with the park service, sells the book in its gift shop located in the ground-floor lobby of the theater. “We decided several weeks ago to carry Bill O’Reilly’s book ‘Killing Lincoln’ in the Ford’s Theatre Society gift shop,” said Paul R. Tetreault, director of Ford’s Theatre Society. “While we understand the National Park Service’s concerns about the book, we decided to let our visitors judge the book themselves.”Henry Holt, the publisher of “Killing Lincoln,” said it was not able to provide comment. O’Reilly did not respond to a request for comment.
Other Lincoln experts also say they have found inaccuracies in the book. In a review published in the November issue of “North & South — The Official Magazine of the Civil War Society,” historian Edward Steers Jr. cites several instances where the book strays from documented history. He 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. Steers notes that more than 16,000 books and articles have been written about Lincoln, with more than 125 volumes on the assassination. He adds that only eight of the assassination books were written by professional historians.
Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia University who has written about the Civil War, Lincoln and the South for 40 years, said that he had not read “Killing Lincoln,” but added in an e-mail, “Many people outside the academy have written about Lincoln and the assassination, but all sorts of unproven theories about it abound and one would hope that any writer would make use of all the relevant sources (and avoid historical errors).”
“Killing Lincoln” has no footnotes. An afterword on sources lists “books, websites, and other archived information.” But to Steers, the list leaves out important primary documents.