Conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly may be getting a lot of criticism for discrepancies that experts say pepper his new biography of our 16th president, but Lincoln Memorial Shrine curator Don McCune says he prefers to give the author a break.
“Any interest in Abraham Lincoln is a good thing,” McCune said during a recent interview. “I think if it encourages interest in people learning about that time period, so much the better.”
The Lincoln Shrine, in Redlands, is the only museum and archive west of the Mississippi River dedicated solely to the study of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War, museum officials said. It caters to youngsters. And most come from San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties as part of classes or individually for projects.
McCune had only begun to look into the brewing controversy last week when he spoke to Patch.com. According to a Salon.com, two literature reviewers -- including Rae Emerson, the deputy superintendent of the historic Ford Theater -- have detailed several errors in O’Reilly’s book titled “Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever.”
Emerson says that “Killing Lincoln” features factual errors and a lack of documentation. According to Salon.com, Emerson noted that the book makes multiple references to the Oval Office when, in fact, Emerson pointed out, the office was not built until 1909.
Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865.
The Redlands memorial’s small gift shop does sell books, but it will not be carrying O’Reilly’s book because the store is geared for children. The only adult, non-youth oriented books the memorial has are books from authors who have spoken during the annual Edyth Burgess Lincoln Dinner.
If O’Reilly ever wanted to speak at the event, they would be glad to have him, McCune said.
While McCune was still looking over some of the reports of the discrepancies, he said many biographical works have had similar problems.
“I don’t think a book has been published yet, even by mainstream historians, that doesn’t have an item or two that can’t be taken to task,” McCune said. “Doris Kerns Goodwin, for example, is accused of plagiarism.”
O’Reilly’s book, co-authored with Martin Dugard, has spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. And much of the book's popularity is the subject, not its writer or the controversy, McCune guessed.
Two centuries after Lincoln’s birth, his life and death still fascinates people, McCune said.
“It’s the drama of the Civil War in my view,” McCune said. “This watershed event in American history that still has relevance today.”
The Lincoln Memorial Shrine is at 125 W. Vine St. in Redlands. For information call (909) 798-7632 or (909) 798-7636.