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UPDATE: Bill O'Reilly on Monday defended the history book he wrote about Abraham Lincoln's assassination, saying that the recent criticism of its factual accuracy was an effort by his "enemies" who hope to undercut what is an "honest" book.
The Fox News host broke his silence on the matter Monday in an interview with Politico, telling the outlet that the criticism—which led the National Park Service to opt against selling the book in its Ford's Theatre bookstore—was "a concerted effort by people who don’t like me to diminish the book."
He struck a similar note on his cable television show. He admitted that Killing Lincoln contained "four minor misstatement, all of which have been corrected" but added that that's "a pretty good record even for nitpickers who want to hurt the book."
O'Reilly also noted the book's strong sales, adding: "We well understand our enemies are full of rage at our success."
The book's publisher, Henry Holt, confirmed to the Washington Post that an unspecified number of changes were made in subsequent printings after the company was "made aware of the errors in the book." The spokesperson added: "We continue to fully support the work of the authors."
Monday, Nov. 14 at 12:44 p.m.: Bill O’Reilly’s first foray into writing a history book has been a success—well, on a commercial scale, if not an academic one.
Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever, which the Fox News anchor co-authored, is currently among Amazon’s top 10 best sellers and sits at No. 2 on the New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction. However, don’t count actual historians among the book’s fans.
The work has been widely criticized by a number of expert reviewers for a slew of apparent factual inaccuracies, the most damning of which are detailed at length in a new report by Rae Emerson, the deputy superintendent of Ford’s Theatre National Historical Site. In the report, Emerson concludes that the book is plagued by a "lack of documentation" and a number of "factual errors."
O’Reilly’s historical account is so flawed, in fact, that Emerson recommended that the site—the very location of the assassination itself—not sell the book in the theater’s basement museum bookstore, which is operated by the National Park Service. (The Washington Post notes, however, that it is on sale at a gift shop in the lobby that is operated independently by Ford’s Theatre Society.)
Among O’Reilly’s apparent mistakes that Emerson details are: multiple references to the Oval Office (despite it not actually being built until 1909, four decades after Lincoln was killed); an inaccurate claim that Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met only once (they met at least twice); and a claim that Ford’s Theatre burned to the ground in 1863, when it actually was set on fire the year before.
Both O’Reilly and the book’s publisher have so far declined to comment on the inaccuracies.
Emerson isn't alone in his criticism. Another critical review of the book is in this month's edition of North & South, a leading Civil War publication that is the official magazine of the Civil War Society. In the review, historian and author Edward Steers Jr. writes that O’Reilly’s take on history is "somewhere between an authoritative account and strange fiction."
After detailing a number of inaccuracies, Steers concludes: "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’?"