Ford’s Theatre Does Not Sell Fiction as History
One of the things that everyone misses from the departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC (he now reaches as many as 27 households with his new show on some new obsucre channel) was his daily skewering of Fox News Commentator Bill O’Reilly. Mr. O’Reilly, like almost all of his cohorts on Fox News produces vitriolic commentary that is usually unsupported by fact, data or logic.
Now Mr. O’Reilly has written a history of the
Lincoln assassination, but the Assistant Director of Ford’s Theatre where was shot has banned sale of the book for the simple reason that it is full of errors. Lincoln
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.
A lot of the mistakes look trivial to those of us who are not professional historians, but professional historians take great pride in accuracy and unlike Conservatives, they worship and revere that concept. Some mistakes are not trivial though
What most irks Steers is the book’s portrait of conspirator Mary Surratt, which sacrifices truth for drama. O’Reilly and Dugard write that when she wasn’t on trial she had to wear a padded hood that disfigured her and made her claustrophobic; that she was “sick and trapped” in a cell that was “barely hospitable” aboard the monitor Montauk; and that she had “a haunted, bloated appearance” because of the experience. To which Steers replies: “None of this is true.
But this is what would expect from a book that
has no footnotes. An afterword on sources lists “books, websites, and other archived information” the authors consulted. But to Steers, the list is inadequate, leaving out important primary documents. “The authors have chosen to write a story based . . . [on] a few dozen secondary books that range from excellent to positively dreadful . . . [with] no vetting . . . treating them as equal,”
Of course, people who watch Mr. O’Reilly and buy his books will not be put off by the lack of veracity, if they were why would they ever buy and read anything that Mr. O’Reilly has written or watch his show. So here is the future
The sales of “Killing
” attest to the fact that TV celebrity and strong storytelling trump accuracy. Since its publication the book has been riding at the top of the bestseller list, and soon after its release O’Reilly signed a contract to write two more books, one of which will be another presidential history. Lincoln
The subject of Mr. O’Reilly’s next Presidential history has not been released, but it is expected to be about the two terms of Thomas Dewey who defeated Truman in 1948, and with a follow-up work by Mr. O’Reilly on the single term of Michael Dukakis who in Mr. O’Reilly’s world defeated George H. W. Bush, but lost in 1992 to Dan Quayle.