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Bill O'Reilly's 'Killing Lincoln' continues to stir controversy

Citing errors, some Lincoln-related historic sites are refusing to carry the book, although O'Reilly accuses critics of nitpicking. 

By / November 16, 2011

O'Reilly said "minor misstatements" in 'Killing Lincoln' have been corrected.

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Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Lincoln,” about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, has been making headlines for days now.

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It all started earlier this week when The Washington Post reported that the National Park Service, citing inaccuracies, had decided not to sell the book – which is co-authored by Martin Dugard – at Ford's Theatre, the museum that is also the site of the assassination. 

Deputy park superintendent Rae Emerson conducted a study on the book and concluded that its errors were too numerous for the museum to want to offer the book for sale. Some of the errors Emerson noted were minor, such as incorrect word choice. (O'Reilly wrote, “he furls his brow” but furl is a "nautical term to compact, roll up,” Emerson notes. “Furrows – narrow grove, depression on any surface, i.e., furrows of a wrinkled face.”)

However, Emerson also identified more significant historical inaccuracies, such as the book depicting Ulysses S. Grant meeting the Lincoln in the Oval Office, which was not built until 1909; a mistaken claim that Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth carved a “peephole in the back of the state box” (the theater’s acting manager, Harry Clay Ford, carved the hole); and a mistaken assertion that Union General Ulysses Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee only met once.

The book is also reported to contain misstatements about the treatment of assassination conspirator Mary Surratt in prison.

Not too surprisingly, O'Reilly has not been taking such criticism quietly. On his show, he said that the book had two typos and “four minor misstatements, all of which have been corrected.” He said he has invited Emerson to appear on his show to discuss his book.

Pat Eisemann, the director of publicity at Henry Holt, the book’s publisher, said mistakes in the book have been corrected.

In the meantime, however, reports have continued to appear as to where the book is and is not being sold. Although the book is still absent from Ford's Theatre, it is being sold at on non-government property at the nearby Ford’s Theatre Society bookstore.

The Chicago Sun-Times is also reporting that in Illinois – land of Lincoln – Lincoln-related sites are divided in their decisions about the book. Although the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum is selling the book in its bookstore, the National Park Service’s Lincoln Home historic site in Springfield is not carrying the book in its museum gift shop, and the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago is not carrying it either.

O’Reilly continues to be vigorous in the defense of his book. On his show Monday night he suggested that “our enemies are full of rage” at the book’s success.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor correspondent.

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