David Barton’s Very Bad Week in Review

The decision by Thomas Nelson Publishers to drop David Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies, was, as we said, commendable. What it wasn’t is something that came out of nowhere. No, the tide against Barton had been building for some time as even those in Barton’s core audience began to sound the alarm. The backlash culminated in Thursday’s announcement, capping off what had to be one of the worst weeks ever for David Barton.

But before we go any further, let’s pause to point out the obvious: Barton isn’t likely to go anywhere. Having been essentially told by Thomas Nelson to go dissemble somewhere else, Barton will probably do just that. He has self-published previous books and will no doubt do the same for The Jefferson Lies now that he’s free to do so. This could, however, be the beginning of the end of Barton’s free ride and uncritical acceptance among evangelicals.

It was, after all, push back from some in the evangelical camp that ultimately pressured Thomas Nelson into dropping Barton’s book.

Barton’s bad run actually goes back a couple of weeks. He has long defended his works by claiming his critics were liberal academics and secularists who were simply out to get him and attack his faith. That defense began to crumble a few weeks ago when WORLD Magazine published a piece that included sharp criticism from Discovery Institute senior fellow Jay W. Richards . (TFN Insider readers should be familiar with the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based outfit devoted to taking down Darwin and in its stead promoting creationism in school classrooms. Not exactly a bunch of secularists or liberal academics by any stretch.) Richards, according to WORLD, asked 10 conservative Christian professors to asses Barton’s work. The results were “negative”:

Some examples: Glenn Moots of Northwood University wrote that Barton in The Jefferson Lies is so eager to portray Jefferson as sympathetic to Christianity that he misses or omits obvious signs that Jefferson stood outside “orthodox, creedal, confessional Christianity.” A second professor, Glenn Sunshine of Central Connecticut State University, said that Barton’s characterization of Jefferson’s religious views is “unsupportable.” A third, Gregg Frazer of The Master’s College, evaluated Barton’s video America’s Godly Heritage and found many of its factual claims dubious, such as a statement that “52 of the 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention were ‘orthodox, evangelical Christians.'” Barton told me he found that number in M.E. Bradford’s A Worthy Company.

Next came word that a group of Cincinnati-based evangelical pastors were boycotting Thomas Nelson. At a press conference, the pastors expressed concern that The Jefferson Lies “glosses over Jefferson’s heretical views about Jesus Christ and excuses him for owning slaves.”

And then there was the NPR story last Wednesday where Barton was picked apart. The NPR on-air piece and its accompanying online piece in which Barton’s own words are juxtaposed with, you know, actual facts, were scathing and in stark contrast to the generally benign press coverage he received last year in the New York Times and during his appearance on The Daily Show.

Less than 24 hours after the NPR piece aired, Barton’s book was pulled.

What did Barton have to say about this? He told WORLD that Thomas Nelson’s decision was a “strange scenario,” and that — as WORLD paraphrased — Thomas Nelson had “not tried to engage him about the ostensible problems in the book.”

And he told the Tennessean that he recently met with a group of scholars who approved of his work.

I can’t tell you how many Ph.D.’s were in the room.

He can’t and he didn’t, telling the Tennessean he didn’t have permission to give names. As our friends at Right Wing Watch put it, Barton’s response was perfectly Bartontonian.

It remains to be seen who continues to stand with Barton. Thus far, Barton fans like Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck and others have been largely silent. The one forceful defense of Barton has come from Rick Green, the former Texas state rep who is a WallBuilders employee and co-hosts Barton’s radio show.

Oh, by the way, Green implied that Barton’s critics were like Hitler. So there’s that.

11 thoughts on “David Barton’s Very Bad Week in Review

  1. Like Hitler? That’s a laugh when you consider that Heinrich Himmler spent a great deal of his SS time doing bogus archaeology around the world to find the real Aryan roots in a mythic German prehistory that never existed. I think anyone with half a noodle in their head would recognize that this is the same sort of nonsense that Barton is pursuing in a desperate attempt to find a false American history that never existed. Was it Michael McDonald in the song? “Trying hard to recreate what had yet to be created.”

    Personally, I am waiting for Texas conservative and political celebrity Donna Garner to issue a written diatribe in defense of Barton. Who here would like to put down a nickel bet that she is not writing one?

    Let’s face it folks. There is no excuse for sloppy scholarship and whatever the heck else negative Barton has been doing all these years. I suspect Barton thinks this will blow over quickly in the media so he can get back to work. However, I doubt this will happen. When the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals find a perpetual public sinner in their midst, they get all outraged and stage a national lynching party. You know how they are.

  2. “glosses over Jefferson’s heretical views about Jesus Christ and excuses him for owning slaves”

    That’s actually fairly amusing, as one of my ancestors wrote a catechism “especially for the instructon of Coloured Persons” that showed plainly (for the 1850’s at least) that slavery was ordained by the God that’s in that same Bible as Jesus. How times change, huh? Or else the Cinncinnatians are the heretics, perhaps?

  3. Please tell me if I am crazy, but I remember Huckabee stating that Americans should be forced to read and listen to Barton, if necessary “at the point of a gun.” Did I dream that? Does anyone else recall that about 2 years ago? What is the difference between that declaration and living under the Taliban? And if he did state that, and I swear I remember it, who the hell is the Hitler in this scenario?

      1. Thank you, Jose, for taking the time to find and post that clip. I am terrified of the political strength of the masses with Barton/Huckabee mentality. I am stunned at how easily people are led by “effective communicators,” no matter what pablum is being fed.

  4. I’ve not read The Jefferson Lies – there’s no way I’d ever give so much as a penny to that filthy perverter of American history David Barton, and my local library (14 branches covering a population of 1.1 million) had the good sense not to purchase the book. But I understand from various reviews that Barton tries to make the case that Jefferson was not a racist.

    LOL! One need look no further than Jefferson’s own Notes on the State of Virginia to know he considered blacks inferior to whites. Shortly after he became president he did a cost analysis to determine if it was feasable to free all black slave and ship them to Africa and the Caribbean. He simply could not envision a mixed society. The idea that Jefferson wasn’t a racist is entirely laughable.

    I’ve also read the reason Barton painted Jefferson as non-racist is to further the comletely idiotic evangelical right idea of American Exceptionalism, the idea that America has been divinely guided every step of the way by God, from the initial discovery of America by Columbus through August 14th, 2012. I suppose those that believe this idea would call it a matter of faith. I consider it a matter of unmitigated stupidity.

  5. Huckabee is really quite stupid and undereducated. Think of him as Goober where Gomer is the smart one.

    Barton only survives if he can control the message and the audience. Get him in the light against actual educated people and he falls apart.

  6. Man!!! Rick Green is getting an earful from Christians on that blog that Ben recommends above. I wonder if Barton is stumbling around drunk somewhere and talking to wall portraits of our founding fathers like Nixon did?

  7. “I can’t tell you how many Ph.D.’s were in the room.”

    Is this classic Barton? Think about it. Is he saying that there were so many Ph.D.s that it would have been futile to try counting them, or is he keeping an escape hatch door open for the day when someone says:

    “Hey David. I was at that meeting and read the list of those attending. None of them had a Ph.D.”

    Barton: “See! I told you I could not tell you how many Ph.D.s were in that room. Yep. I sure am on top of things.”