Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Lincoln’ Book Banned for Historical Inaccuracy from Ford’s Theatre

 @julia_greenberg
on November 13 2011 9:01 PM
Bill O'Reilly
Fox News political commentator Bill O'Reilly Reuters

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Killing Lincoln would be completely banned from Ford's Theatre. However, Ford's Theatre has clarified that while the book will not be carried in the Eastern Natinoal Bookstore located in the Theatre's basement museum, the book will be carried in the Theatre's gift shop, located on the ground-floor lobby. The story has been changed to reflect this. The error is regretted.

Fox News political commentator Bill O'Reilly has come under fire for disregarding historical facts and publishing factual errors in Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever. The book, co-written by Martin Dugard, has been banned from the Eastern National Bookstore located in the basement of Ford's Theatre, the historic site where Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth.

Salon reported that the official National Park Service bookstore at Ford's Theatre has banned the book from the historic site because of the lack of documentation and the factual errors within the publication. The gift shop, however, will be carrying the book.

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.

O'Reilly's first work of historical non-fiction has spent six weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and is currently ranked second. The AP reported that Killing Lincoln had sold nearly 1 million copies by the end of October.  

Rae Emerson, deputy superintendent at Ford's Theatre, however, reviewed the book and decided not to include it in the bookstore due to factual errors and inaccuracies.

In her review, Emerson lists a number of mistakes in O'Reilly's work. For example, she says O'Reilly mixes up words, such as using the term furl instead of furrows.

O'Reilly also makes factual errors with dates, Emerson explains, as reported by Salon. He claims Generals Lee and Grant would never meet again after a scene in Killing Lincoln, though they do in 1865 to discuss paroled prisoners.

He says the Ford's Theatre burned to the ground in 1863. However, the fire actually broke out in 1862, only leaving the walls blackened, but still standing.

Killing Lincoln further makes false references to the Oval Office, which Emerson reports was not built until 1909, nearly 50 years after Lincoln was dead.

Washington Post reviewer Ellen Fitzpatrick, a history professor at the University of New Hampshire, agrees with Emerson. She begins her review with mentions of early American historians who were rich in imagination and sometimes short on evidence. She writes that Killing Lincoln resurrects an old canard debunked long ago by serious historians. O'Reilly and Dugard fail to provide evidence for their assertion that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton may have been involved in a plot to kill Lincoln.

Due to these and many other historical inaccuracies, Emerson and other reviewers have found O'Reilly's book to be the work of a sloppy historian rather than a true non-fiction historical account.

Despite these claims, O'Reilly is currently planning a series of books on American presidents that is very much in keeping with Killing Lincoln, Stephen Rubin, Henry Holt and Co's president and publisher, told The Associated Press.  

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