A best-seller about Thomas Jefferson by an influential Tea Party and evangelical figure has been recalled after the publisher announced on Thursday that it has detected factual inaccuracies in the book.
Nashville-based evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson is no longer shipping any copies to retailers of “The Jefferson Lies’’ by David Barton and is recalling existing copies from brick-and-mortar retailers. It also has requested to online booksellers that they no longer sell the e-book version and has removed the book from its own website. The book is still being sold on Amazon.
“[We were] contacted by a number of people expressing concerns about The Jefferson Lies,’’ Thomas Nelson said in a statement. “We took all of those concerns seriously, tried to sort out matters of opinion or interpretation, and in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.”
The book, which was released in April and reached the New York Times best-seller list, aims to debunk liberal beliefs about Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, who was the third president in U.S. history and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Barton is a Republican operative and Tea Party figure who has appeared as a guest on Glenn Beck’s show multiple times and made an appearance on “The Daily Show” promoting “The Jefferson Lies’’ in May.
Barton told The Nashville Tennessean that he found out the book had been dropped via an email from Thomas Nelson.
Accusations of historical misinterpretations and factual inaccuracies in the book had been hurled at Barton from conservative and liberal scholars alike since its release. A pair of professors at Grove City (Pa.) College, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, released a book in May titled “Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President,” that is dedicated to pointing out the inaccuracies in Barton’s work.
Barton told The Tennesseean that he has gotten offers from other publishers to produce the book. Recalling a book, particularly a best-seller, is a rare event for Thomas Nelson.
“Although we do carefully edit every book we publish, Thomas Nelson relies on the expertise of our authors concerning their subjects,” a company spokesperson told Publisher’s Weekly. “It is extremely rare that the company would have to withdraw a book from the market based on concerns about its content.”
Barton argues in the book that Jefferson was an orthodox evangelical and not an anti-Christian secularist. In addition to the book by Throckmorton and Coulter refuting that claim with historical evidence, religious scholar Greg Forster wrote a piece, “David Barton’s Errors,” that details the errors in the book and says Barton’s “inability to write reliable history stretches beyond ideological cheerleading into outright incompetence.”
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Other claims in Barton’s book also drew the ire of religious figures like a group of ministers in Cincinnati. Barton writes that Jefferson would have freed his slaves if the laws during that time would not have penalized him for it, but Jefferson did free two slaves, according to what Throckmorton told The Tennessean. The slavery issue drew the attention of African-American clergy, who contacted Thomas Nelson and considered organizing a boycott.
“‘The Jefferson Lies’ glosses over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views,” the Rev. Damon Lynch of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Cincinnati told The Tennesseean.
Barton’s longtime critics have also pounced on the controversy, including the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that advances the agenda of religious freedom and monitors far-right evangelical groups. Barton is the owner of a Texas-based group, WallBuilders, a Christian organization “dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history,” according to its website.
“It’s clear that even the evangelical community is starting to see David Barton for what he is — a propagandist who distorts history for political and ideological purposes,’’ TFN President Kathy Miller told Daily Kos. “The question is now, will politicians and pundits who have promoted his views have the integrity to follow suit and repudiate Barton?"
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