O’Reilly lashes out at critics of Lincoln book

The Fox host blames media lies and politics for reviews that pointed out factual errors in his bestselling book VIDEO

Topics: Bill O'Reilly, History, ,

O'Reilly lashes out at critics of Lincoln book Bill O'Reilly (Credit: AP)

On his Fox show Monday evening, Bill O’Reilly dismissed as “gutter sniping” reviews of his new Lincoln assassination history that pointed out multiple factual errors in the bestselling book.

“We well understand our enemies are full of rage of [the book's] success,” O’Reilly said. “We also know the media lies at will with no accountability. ‘Killing Lincoln’ in an honest book that you will enjoy and learn from, and that every American student should read.”

Here’s the video of the segment via Media Matters:

The controversy started after Salon reported that the official National Park Service bookstore at Ford’s Theatre had rejected O’Reilly’s book because of “the lack of documentation and the factual errors within the publication.” A second review in a leading Civil War magazine identified another 10 or so alleged errors.

A separate gift shop at Ford’s, which is not subject to the same rigorous review standards as the National Park Service bookstore, has decided to sell “Killing Lincoln.”

O’Reilly seized on that fact Monday and elided over the National Park Service’s decision entirely:



Now we have attacks on my new book, Killing Lincoln. The The Washington Post says the bookstore at Ford’s Theater in Washington where Lincoln was assassinated is refusing to sell the book. That’s not true.

A statement released by the director of the Ford’s Theater says, quote, “I am sure many of you read the article in this morning’s Post, Bill O’Reilly’s book banned from Ford’s Theater. I write to clarify the misinformation. The Bill O’Reilly book Killing Lincoln is available in our shop and has been for the last several weeks.” Unquote.

A couple notes here: the Post report — while it didn’t credit Salon with breaking the O’Reilly story — is, in fact, accurate. The bookstore at Ford’s decided not to offer “Killing Lincoln,” while the gift shop — again, not subject to the same quality standards and not under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service — is offering the book.

O’Reilly also did not mention the rest of Ford’s Theatre Society Director Paul Tetreault’s statement:  ”While we understand the National Park Service’s concerns about the book, we decided to let our visitors judge the book themselves,” Tetreault said.

More important, O’Reilly claimed Monday that “there are four minor misstatements, all of which have been corrected,” as well as “two type set errors” in “Killing Lincoln.”

That claim is at odds with the 15 or so factual errors identified by two expert reviewers — one the Ford’s Theatre official and the other the author of multiple scholarly books about the Lincoln assassination. It’s not clear whether O’Reilly is disputing some of those errors. I’ve asked publisher Henry Holt for details of the corrections and I will update this post if I hear back.

Ed Steers Jr., the author of the “Killing Lincoln” review in North & South magazine, told Salon in an email Monday evening that he stands by his criticisms.

“I was rather careful, as always when writing a critical review. One does not like being negative. It is far more gratifying to praise an historical work than it is to criticize its failings,” wrote Steers, who noted that he has “devoted over 40 years and 7 books to studying Lincoln’s assassination.”

Added Steers: “As I wrote in my review, my deepest regret is that Mr. O’Reilly had a wonderful opportunity to tell the factual story of Lincoln’s assassination to an audience that most historians never reach, and failed to do so.”

Here’s the full transcript of the Fox segment via Media Matters:

You may remember a few years back the dishonest Al Franken tried to discredit me by saying I lied about my upbringing, that I was not raised in Leavittown, New York. My book documents my history and proves Franken a liar.

Now we have attacks on my new book, Killing Lincoln. The The Washington Post says the bookstore at Ford’s Theater in Washington where Lincoln was assassinated is refusing to sell the book. That’s not true.

A statement released by the director of the Ford’s Theater says, quote, “I am sure many of you read the article in this morning’s Post, Bill O’Reilly’s book banned from Ford’s Theater. I write to clarify the misinformation. The Bill O’Reilly book Killing Lincoln is available in our shop and has been for the last several weeks.” Unquote

Unfortunately the statement also says there are inaccuracies in the book. Well, in 325 pages, there are four minor misstatements, all of which have been corrected. There are also two type set errors, one involving a date. Now that’s a pretty good record. Even for nitpickers who want to hurt the book.

We’ve invited the historian who works at the Ford’s Theater on the Factor. I would love to talk with her. Also, the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois has invited me to do a book signing out there. Trying to work that out. By the way there are now more than 1 million copies of Killing Lincoln in print and the book continues selling well.

We well understand our enemies are full of rage of that success. We also know the media lies at will with no accountability. Killing Lincoln in an honest book that you will enjoy and learn from, and that every American student should read.

And all the gutter sniping in the world is not going to change that.

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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