One For the Books

From Salon:

A reviewer for the official National Park Service bookstore at Ford’s Theatre has recommended that Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling new book about the Lincoln assassination not be sold at the historic site “because of the lack of documentation and the factual errors within the publication.”

Rae Emerson, deputy superintendent at Ford’s Theatre, which is a national historic site under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, has penned a scathing appraisal of O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever.” In Emerson’s official review, which I’ve pasted below, she spends four pages correcting passages from O’Reilly’s book before recommending that it not be offered for sale at Ford’s Theatre because it is not up to quality standards.

Original book cover

For example, “Killing Lincoln” makes multiple references to the Oval Office; in fact, Emerson points out, the office was not built until 1909.

At one point O’Reilly writes of generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, “The two warriors will never meet again.” In fact, according to the review, Grant and Lee met for a second time in 1865 to discuss prisoners of war.

The book says that Ford’s Theatre “burned to the ground in 1863.” In fact, the fire was in 1862, according to the review.


One dissenting take came from University of New Hampshire history professor Ellen Fitzpatrick, who questioned the book’s sourcing in a Washington Post review.

‘Killing Lincoln’ also resurrects an old canard debunked long ago by serious historians: that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was involved in the plot to kill Lincoln, in the hope that he might ascend to the presidency. There is no credible evidence to support such an assertion, nor do O’Reilly and Dugard provide any. (In fact, ‘Killing Lincoln’ offers no direct citations for any of its assertions. In a three-page summary under the heading ‘Notes,’ the authors assure readers that they have consulted “hundreds” of sources; they list the secondary sources they have relied on.)

The book is also getting hammered in customer reviews on Amazon, with some charges of historical inaccuracy and an average rating of just two stars out of five.

Read the full National Park Service review that lists some of the errors at the Salon link above.

Another article from Salon:

[I]n a leading Civil War magazine, a second expert has flunked O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln,” calling it “somewhere between an authoritative account and strange fiction.”

The review (which is not online) appears in the November issue of North & South, the official magazine of the Civil War Society.

“The narrative contains numerous errors of people, place, and events,” writes reviewer Edward Steers Jr., author of more than five books on the Lincoln assassination. He goes on to list about 10 errors of fact in “Killing Lincoln,” which O’Reilly co-authored with Martin Dugard and which has been atop bestseller lists for weeks.

A farm where John Wilkes Booth hid after the killing was not 500 acres, as O’Reilly says. It was 217 acres, according to the review.

O’Reilly refers to John Ford’s chief carpenter as John J. Clifford. In fact, according to the review, his name was Gifford.

“Lewis Powell, the man assigned to kill secretary of state William Seward, did not speak with ‘an Alabama drawl.’ He was from Florida,” the review notes.

Steers adds that one entire passage of the book about co-conspirator Mary Surratt is flat-out untrue:

The authors write that she was forced to wear a padded hood when not on trial, and that she was imprisoned in a cell aboard the monitor Montauk, which was “barely habitable.” She suffered from “claustrophobia and disfigurement caused by the hood,” and was “barely tended to by her captors.” “Sick and trapped in this filthy cell, Mary Surratt took on a haunted, bloated appearance.” None of this is true. Mary Surratt was never shackled or hooded at any time. She was never imprisoned aboard the Montauk, but taken to the Carroll Annex of the Old Capitol Prison before being transferred to the women’s section of the Federal Penitentiary at the Washington’s Arsenal.  


Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly, Books, humor, parody, politics, Republicans, snark, Wordpress Political Blogs

44 responses to “One For the Books

  1. elizabeth3hersh

    One of the amazon commenters wrote: “I have read a lot of books and some of them you really cannot just put down. I honestly could not wait to put this one down. Then I could not wait to get on here and put it down even more.” I had no idea the book had been so hammered…no wonder he is giving away so many ‘signed copies’ away on his program. I always thought Lincoln’s private life was far more fascinating than his presidency…I have no idea if that was addressed as I have not read the book (nor will I ever read the book).

  2. What? Bill O’Reilly isn’t a scholar? I am so disappointed. Damn.

  3. O’Reilly probably thinks that the joke jokingly attributed to Lincoln is true: “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet. – Abe Lincoln”

  4. can we take bets on when O’reilly’s book pushing Palin’s book off the dollar table

    speaking of Palin’s book – they were closing a Border’s near men and were having a fire sale – to get rid of everything. I think the only thing that could get rid of Palin’s book off the shelves was a fire – a little fahrenheit 451. even at 40 cents NO ONE was buying Palin’s book

    besides – Mrs. O’reilly how did you enjoy your idiotic husband’s latest rant

  5. Making shit up works on Fox…not so much with the historians.

  6. Revisionists history is alive and well with one segment of the population – sadly, too large of a slice.

  7. jay

    I love the part in the book when Lincoln tells Booth after being shot: “Thank you, young man, for supporting the second amendmnent.”

  8. They either had to ban it, or create a new “fiction” or “total bullshit” section @ the Ford theater gift shop.
    Good call on the ban.

    • of course, bill0 is blaming his enemies for this horrible attack on him. poor bill0, the perpetual victim like so many faux news personalities.

    • My wife and I were wondering about the parody “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer” and whether you could buy that at Ford’s Theater. The idea that the vampire book is there and Bill’s isn’t kind of makes me happy.

      • if that title hadn’t been taken, bill0’s book probably would have reported as fact that lincoln was a vampire, and most of his faithful viewers would have believed it.

  9. This is what happens when he starts believing his own bullshit, a easy thing to do when you spend all your time in the hot tub of infallibility. My historical reading rarely finds the blatant liar, like the English nazi lover (can’t even remember his name) but I don’t have his volumes in my archive either. What chaps me is soft selling events to make them seem not so bad. I picked up a massive Official History of the USAF at a hobby show and was impressed by its scope and depth, good narrative, but annoyed while spot checking the chapter opening our boys in the ETO saying that first mission had “moderate results”. The plan was for our first fliers that got to England (sans planes) were going to do a big symbolic mission on the 4th of July. This will look great in the headlines back home! So the 8th AF guys arranged with the RAF to borrow a dozen Boston IIIs (A20 Havoc), paint on some Air Corps marking and do a high value raid across the channel at the big Phillips Radio and valve factory in Holland. When they went on the mission, they were quickly detected by the Luftwaffe standing patrol. As they tried to close in on the target, they 109s ripped them apart, shooting down half the bombers. The rest, in the confusion, totally missed the factory and instead hit a neighborhood of buildings close by killing 480 civilians giving the nazis great propaganda. The survivors struggled back to england all shot up, the whole thing a total cock-up. So much for moderate results.

    • i am by no means an historical scholar. i rely on those who are (like you and john, jerry). for that reason, i would never write a book of history, because i would not want to mislead or misinform anyone who might read my book. bill0 should have used the same reasoning.

      • That’s OK, you’re good at what you do. I finally remembered the crappy author: David Irving. Read up on his bio on the ADL site. His apologetic revisionism concerning Bad Adolf can’t get a grip on the fact he came to represent pure evil. (and a hats off to Uncle Joe!)

  10. jeb

    It’s not so much “Killing Lincoln” as it is Killing History or Killing Scholarship. But hey, what do those pinhead historians know anyway? They better watch themselves or Bill-O – the enemy of ambush liberal journalism – will send one of his producers to accost them on camera.

    I remember a few weeks ago seeing Bill-O on The Daily Show plugging the book. Since I’ve read a lot of Civil War history, I was mildly curious. Now that I’ve read this, my curiosity has been satisfied and I won’t have to look for it in the pile of books that the local library is trying to get rid of.

    • originally, i retitled the book ‘killing history.’ then i realized that bill0 didn’t want to kill it outright, because he has 2 more book deals. he’d probably just slowly poison it to death.

  11. elizabeth3hersh

    Since I may be the only ‘Factor fan’ on this blog, I will chime in again (sorry!). I usually fast-forward through these kinds of segments, but opted instead to hear Bill0 out since he addressed this issue on his show tonight (don’t shoot the messenger!). First, he addressed the Washington Post story stating his book purportedly being banned from the Ford theater. A spokesman for the Ford Theater Society subsequently apologized for the mis-information and issued an invitation for Bill0 to do a book signing event. He also said that in 325 pages, there were four minor mis-statements which have been corrected and two typeset errors (one involving a date). He invited the historian of the Ford Theater on his show (gracious!), and the Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL has invited him to their venue (also to do a book signing event). He didn’t address the abysmal Amazon reviews, but who cares when the book is flying off the shelves?

    In 2950, will anyone care whether Lincoln pinched one loaf or two in 1864? They’ll probably only remember what I remember about Abe: honest and the Emancipation Proclamation…oh, and he was president…if that! (Approximately 235 presidential terms will have elapsed by then.)

    I’m still not reading the book, but I will continue to watch the Factor (mostly for his fights with Geraldo). BTW, I don’t care about his book. I care that he is the only pundit I am aware of that tackles child abuse (and crime in general) head-on and provides extensive coverage on the topic. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that the nuns got to him in parochial school (hence, his religiosity). I’m now starting to wonder whether a priest may have got (carnally) to him as well? In my eyes, he keeps redeeming himself. I choose to focus on his crusade against child abuse rather than the fact that he may have written (to some) a crappy book. We’re all flawed (me more than others) so I try and cut everybody some slack.

    Are those bullets I feel fired at my soul or are you all going to cut me some slack too?

    • oy, elizabeth, you always leave me long comments to respond to when i am at my most exhausted. i only got a couple of hours sleep (fridge tsuris still), but i’ll do my best. i don’t know how or why bill0 covers child abuse. i don’t watch him, so he might be perfectly sincere. there are a lot of news programs who only cover the sensationalism attached to particular cases, and it makes me want to puke. but i’ll give bill0 the benefit of the doubt in this department and move on.

      as for the book, there are 2 gift shops in ford’s theatre. one run by he national park service and one by the ford’s theatre society. they are selling the book in the latter’s gift shop, but not in the former’s. as for the errors, there were more than 4, and at least one was so egregious that it can’t be ignored. the secretary of war, edwin stanton, was not involved in an assassination plot against lincoln. that conspiracy theory has been debunked. bill0 and his co-author offered no documentation for anything in his book (everything i’ve read about it states that). who writes a history book and doesn’t cite where he got his facts?

      some of what bill0 got wrong would not be a big deal if he happened to mention those things in passing in conversation. however, if you are writing what you purport to be an historically accurate book, you had better be ready to back up your “facts.” if you get your facts wrong, and people call you out on it, you are not a victim. you’re a shitty historian.

      no bullets are flying in your direction, elizabeth. the raisinettes are allowed to like or dislike anyone they want. we don’t have to necessarily agree on who we like and who we don’t. i, for one, can’t understand how you can find anything to like in bill0 (or just about anyone else at faux news, with maybe the exception of shepard smith, not that i’m a fan).

      maybe it’s a matter of whom some people remind you of. i don’t know bill0 personally, but i see a lot of traits in him that i’ve seen in people whom i’ve known and didn’t like at all. he strikes me as a narcissistic blowhard with no real convictions other than trying to get lots of attention so that he fills some void within himself (maybe he dislikes himself as much as i dislike him). he’s a bully, but only when he knows he’s holding all the cards. when confronted, he shrinks up like a set of testicles in ice water. he thinks he’s brilliant, but he’s not. when he argues, he never gets any smarter, just louder.

      maybe you see something in him that i don’t. i won’t hold it against you that you like him. however, i wouldn’t let you set me up on a blind date. 😉

      • elizabeth3hersh

        Thanks for cutting me some slack nonnie. 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your continuing fridge saga (I had one of my own recently and found out it was a well know issue via after Googling my make and model!). As to O, yes he comes off as narcissistic and a blowhard, but not always. I do believe he is sincere and does more good than harm.

        I’ve only set up one blind date in my life: a close friend of mine (a fetching Hungarian neurologist) with another friend of mine (SMART blond bombshell and ex-Dallas Cowboys cheerleader with Hungarian ancestry who was remotely related to Kafka). A shidduch of shidduchs (or so I thought). I was actually overcome by how PERFECT they would be TOGETHER and that is exactly how I hyped it to both of them. Everyone’s endorphin levels were sky-high with anticipation. Well, I never heard the end of it. I got two phone calls later that evening.

        Neurologist: “Don’t EVER set me up again…not ever, EVER!” Blah, blah, blah…

        Call waiting…click:

        Blonde bombshell: “Do you realize I almost jumped out of the car while it was in motion to get away from his crazy ass and COULD HAVE DIED?!!?” Blah, blah, blah…

        Rest assured, I will NEVER set you up nonnie.

        • 😆 i wouldn’t mind a hungarian neurologist, but only if he still fetches. i always need something from the other room. 😉

          my fridge woes are more about the delivery service than the fridge itself, though there is a problem with it. maybe i’ll write a post about it one of these days.

    • We always cut slack here. I see Bill now and again on Letterman and other shows and he can be a regular guy if he doesn’t get into a rant like he did on Stewart about those godamn muffins…”I broke that story!” It’s good to get diverse views of things and especially nice when folks are civil and rely on reason to persuade and not decibels of anger. Years ago I saw Bill on an interview when he described life growing up with an out of control drunken father who would beat him and lock him in the closet. Really sad. He doesn’t seem so bad when you compare that situation with other that suffered that sort of drunken brutal debasement. Two that come to mind are Hitler and Stalin.

      • elizabeth3hersh

        Wow, I did not know about his childhood. I had a severely alcoholic mother…perhaps that is one reason I ‘relate’ to him. I find his pomposity humorous (that may be why he is a TV personality…the media is full of them). And thanks for cutting me some slack. 🙂

        • Your welcome, anytime. On a related subject, you might want to check out Norman Swartzkopf’s (msp!) autobiography. His mom slipped into severe alcholism and the story of growing up with it is quite bizarre.

          • elizabeth3hersh

            Sounds fascinating Tex West…will definitely check it out. If I recall correctly, Schwarzkopf has an IQ in the mid-180s (!) which puts him squarely in Mensa territory. My curiosity is piqued!

  12. What is surprising is, why all of O’Reilly’s resources and money… he did not employ a fact checker….was is not surprising is that he would prefer to wing it….. I will not ever read anything penned by him. There are plenty of reputable historians to read….

    • ‘zactly, jimm! with all the resources at his disposal, he could have fact-checked the shit out of that book, but he chose not to. maybe he figured he’d save a few pennies, or maybe he’s just so intellectually lazy, he thought everyone else would be, too, so why bother.

  13. John Erickson

    Unfortunately, this isn’t just a right-wing problem. I’ve seen books by “celebrities” of various ilk who take some topic they have a passing acquaintance with, and try to write a book. I’ve rarely found an actor who’s a good author, and pretty much vice versa.
    Yes, there may be exceptions – I just don’t see Bill O as one of them.
    (No hate going your way from me, Elizabeth! 😀 )

    • that’s true, john, but there’s a difference. if some actor or actress or other celeb pens a book, people know that they aren’t reading something by a scholar. a so-called journalist, on the other hand, should have a degree of gravitas and should care about facts.

  14. Lol I heard about this on MSNBC

  15. A friend is co-authoring a book…. old breweries and bars in Eastern Wisconsin…. due out in Feb…. they have fact checked the crap out of that book ( I may even get a credit :)… it isn’t that hard to fact check if you know how to use a library… gees