Bill O'Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard describe their new novel Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever as an "unsanitized and uncompromising…no spin American story," but I'm sure the National Park Service would suggest that they add a few more words to their characterization, like "inaccurate" and "unfounded". In a recent review, a National Park Service employee recommended that the bestselling novel not be sold at the historic Ford's Theatre in Washington DC, the site of Lincoln's assassination, "because of the lack of documentation and the factual errors within the publication."
Rae Emerson, the deputy superintendent of Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, spends four pages in her official review just correcting passages from O'Reilly's book. While Killing Lincoln contains multiple references to the Oval Office, Emerson points out that the office was not built until 1909. The book says that Ford's Theatre was destroyed by a fire in 1863, but it actually burned down in 1862. During one eloquent passage, O'Reilly makes the claim when writing of generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, "the two warriors will never meet again." Wrong again — Emerson points out that the two met a second time in 1865 to discuss prisoners of war. These and other inaccuracies led the reviewer to suggest that the text not be offered for sale at Ford's Theatre because it doesn't meet quality standards.
Despite spending six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, Killing Lincoln has received multiple critical reviews. In her Washington Post review, University of New Hampshire history professor Ellen Fitzpatrick commented on the book's lack of footnoting and primary sources:
‘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.)
Even fans of O'Reilly are charging him with writing "sloppy history" — currently, Killing Lincoln has an average Amazon customer rating of two stars and has produced some particularly scathing (read: entertaining) customer reviews. Oh Bill, don't you understand? You can't make wildly inaccurate and unfounded claims in a historical text! That's what your show on Fox News is for.