One year ago today, on April 10, 2012, a new book hit the shelves -- David Barton's The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.
Although Barton has been writing "history" books for well over two decades, he was relatively unknown outside of evangelical Christian circles and those of us who fight historical revisionism until a few years ago, when Glenn Beck, by making him his resident "historian" and new BFF, propelled him to Christian nationalist rock star status.
The Jefferson Lies was Barton's first "history" book to be published by a major publisher -- Thomas Nelson, one of the largest American trade publishers and the world's largest Christian publisher. Barton's prior books, widely used by Christian schools, homeschoolers, and conservative Christian politicians, were self-published by his own publishing company, WallBuilder Press.
To the disdain of history lovers and real historians, Barton's Jefferson Lies quickly rose to #11 on Amazon and became a New York Times bestseller.
Barton's book was, of course, met with immediate criticism and debunkings from the usual suspects (like me) who have been exposing his historical hogwash for years, and in July, it was voted the "Least Credible History Book in Print" by readers of the History News Network. None of this criticism and exposing of the numerous blatant lies in Barton's book, however, was anything that Barton hadn't dealt with before from the secularists who seek to destroy America's Christian heritage.
But something else happened this time. Some evangelical Christians came out against his book, including a group of pastors in Ohio who threatened a boycott of Thomas Nelson, mainly over the book's whitewashing of the issue of Thomas Jefferson and slavery. (Barton's book claims, among other things, that although Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves, he was not a racist and considered blacks to be equal to whites.)
On August 1, the Ohio pastors, who had read an advance copy of the book and had asked to meet with Thomas Nelson before it released, held a press conference announcing their boycott. Eight days later, on August 9, Thomas Nelson pulled The Jefferson Lies, having suddenly "lost confidence in the book's details."
Barton and his supporters quickly came up with a number of excuses for Thomas Nelson dumping the book -- it was because Christian publisher Thomas Nelson had been bought by secular publisher HarperCollins; it was Thomas Nelson's own fault because they edited material out of Barton's manuscript that would have supported his claims; Thomas Nelson abandoned their Christian principles and bowed to political pressure ... yada yada yada. A number of conservative evangelical Christian professors who, like the Ohio pastors, had come out against the book were labeled academic elitists who didn't espouse true Christian values.
In the eyes of his followers, David Barton -- the man who is rescuing history from those scary actual historians -- was clearly being persecuted for his Christian values.
But Barton's pal Glenn Beck quickly came to the rescue, saying on the August 16 episode of his web-based TV show that his publishing company, Mercury Ink, intended to republish the book.
But first Barton had to get rid of the 17,000 copies he had bought back from Thomas Nelson after they pulled the book. The book remained (and still remains) available on Barton's WallBuilders.com website, and from August to November could still be purchased on Amazon, but only through third party sellers. Then, at the end of November, the book was suddenly listed as "in stock" and available directly from Amazon again. The publisher, however, was not listed as Glenn Beck's Mercury Ink. It was listed as WallBuilders Press, which, as I said, is Barton's own publishing company. Was this the new edition that Barton had been promising for months? The one that was going to contain all that material cut by Thomas Nelson that Barton claimed would clear up everything? Well, no. I ordered a copy and it was exactly the same Thomas Nelson edition that I had bought when the book first came out, right down to the typos. Apparently, Barton intended to sell off some of those thousands of copies he still had left on Amazon by deceptively listing the book under a different publisher. (I contacted Amazon and got them to change the publisher back to Thomas Nelson; then Barton got them to change it back to Wallbuilders; then I got them to change it back to Thomas Nelson again. Currently, the book is still being sold on Amazon as a Thomas Nelson book, even though when Thomas Nelson pulled it they recalled the copies that were in bookstores.)
Barton, who vowed almost from the moment that Thomas Nelson pulled the book that a bigger publisher had already picked it up, is now claiming that that bigger publisher is Simon & Schuster. In an article posted on his WallBuilders.com website in February, he stated this in three places, writing: "After Thomas Nelson dropped the book, The Jefferson Lies was subsequently reviewed and then picked up by Simon & Schuster," "The Jefferson Lies will reach a far larger audience through Simon & Schuster than it would have with the Christian publisher Thomas Nelson," and that the book "will be released by Simon & Schuster in 2013"
Is this true? Is Simon & Schuster really going to republish a book that was dumped by another publisher for its inaccuracy? Well, this may be one of those stretches of the truth that Barton is so well known for. Glenn Beck did say that his Mercury Ink publishing company intended to republish Barton's book, and Beck's company does have some sort of publishing partnership with Simon & Schuster, whose conservative non-fiction imprint, Threshold, publishes Beck's books. But does Beck's company republishing Barton's book mean the same thing as Simon & Schuster republishing it? Or is Barton just exploiting Beck's connection with Simon & Schuster to make it sound like his book was picked up by that bigger, badder publisher he claimed he had?
In the days following the pulling of Barton's book by Thomas Nelson, Barton's radio show co-host, Rick Green, issued an open challenge on his blog for anyone to point out any inaccuracies in the book. I, of course, responded to that challenge. Green avoided accepting my acceptance of his challenge by saying that he didn't have time to respond to all the comments, but, oddly, he did have time to write a whole other post attacking me.
Rick Green's evasion of addressing the historical inaccuracies in his cohort's book actually made me even more determined to write a thorough debunking of every single lie in The Jefferson Lies, which has turned into a seven-volume (one for each chapter of the book) project, the first volume of which I put out back in September, with other volumes coming soon.
So, in honor of the first anniversary of the publication of the "Least Credible History Book in Print," I've decided to make the first volume of my debunking of that masterpiece of historical revisionism (which debunks every stinking lie the book's second chapter) available as a FREE PDF.