David Barton’s New Edition of ‘The Jefferson Lies’

by Dan Quinn

Pseudo-historian and political propagandist David Barton has announced a new edition of The Jefferson Lies, his troubled book about the nation’s third president. Oh boy.

Evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson Publishing ceased publication of The Jefferson Lies in 2012 after scholars pointed to factual inaccuracies and distortions in the book. But Barton turned to WND Books — the publishing arm of the right-wing conspiracy website World Net Daily — to keep the book in the marketplace.

Barton’s Texas-based WallBuilder’s organization announced the release of the new edition in an email on Wednesday:

“The new edition of The Jefferson Lies contains brand new information — over 25,000 more words than the first edition, with 60 more pages and an additional 200 footnotes. Almost 40% of this book is brand new content!”

Golly. Lots of new words and pages. But how many falsehoods and distortions are in the book this time? And did Barton correct any of the old ones? It seems revealing that a reputable publisher didn’t bother to pick up the new edition.

Steven Green, a constitutional scholar, historian and director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Oregon, reviewed the first edition of Barton’s book for TFN in 2012. An excerpt from that review:

[L]ike so many Christian nationalists, Barton engages in the fallacies of false analogies and reductionism. He falsely assumes that a person of faith could not support a regime of secular governance, one that sees the dangers lurking in forms of church-state interdependence. He highlights ‘inconsistencies’ while giving little account for the great body of Jefferson writings advocating for separation and religious liberty. And he fails to acknowledge the evolution of thought about church-state matters that transpired during the Founding period. The Jefferson who emerges is not the complex man who could promote liberty while holding slaves, or could advocate for secular government while holding his own heterodox theistic beliefs. Instead, to be an ‘American Hero’ in Barton’s view, Jefferson must be reduced to a two-dimensional figure who can only be religious if he is a Christian according to Barton’s narrow definition.

It’s rather doubtful Barton, a man whose versions of history conveniently fit his political agenda, does any better in the new edition.

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Melissa Al-Ahmadi

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