The radio broadcast began with the highest of praise.
“David Barton. An honorable, honorable man. A true American historian. And really honestly, I think the man who has singlehandedly saved this country from darkness,” said conservative radio host Glenn Beck. “The stuff that he has taught me I didn’t know.”
The 12-minute show focused on Barton’s new book, “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing The Myths You’ve Always Believed About Jefferson.”
“If you’ve never read a David Barton book, you’ve not read a history book,” said Beck at the end of his April 2012 interview with Barton.
“David is one of the best, if not the best, historians in America. He is doing everything he can to turn history back and write it and put it back to where it was and tell history like it was, and to tell the truth, both good and bad. Thomas Jefferson is such an important figure. This is a watershed book that you need to equip yourself with and equip your family and children with, so they know about the truth about Jefferson,” urged Beck.
Some four months later, conservative Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson Publishers canceled “The Jefferson Lies.”
The reason, cited by the Tennessean, was too many errors.
“Because of these deficiencies, we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to cease its publication and distribution,” said Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s corporate communications director.
World magazine reported that the conservative Jay Richards at the Discovery Institute had asked “10 conservative Christian professors to assess Barton’s work.”
The professors gave Barton’s work a negative assessment.
Richards said that Barton’s body of work had “embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims.”
EthicsDaily.com is thankful that conservatives have recognized the problems with Barton’s work, spoken publicly and moved to distance themselves from his claims.
EthicsDaily.com has warned about how Barton uses flawed history to advance his Christian America agenda.
One of the nation’s premier historians, Martin Marty, wrote critically of Barton’s new book in May.
“Barton is publishing ‘The Jefferson Lies,’ which most historians would title ‘Barton’s Lies about Jefferson,'” said Marty.
A year earlier, Marty said that Barton cherry-picked material.
Another preeminent historian and a Baptist, Richard Pierard, referred to Barton’s work as “pseudo-history.”
Bruce Prescott, another Baptist scholar and leading advocate for the separation of church and state, wrote in 2010: “For more than two decades, David Barton has been deceiving many honest but naïve Christians with a revisionist history about our system of government that promotes the mythology of Christian nationalism.”
In addition to columns, EthicsDaily.com has had news stories about Barton’s role in shaping the public education curriculum in Texas.
Now, conservatives are challenging Barton’s use of history and distancing themselves from his misuse of history. When Thomas Nelson Publishers backs away from Barton, one knows Barton’s work is dubious.
Given these developments in the conservative camp, one awaits the decision at Alabama Public Television.
In recent weeks, APT executives have been fired, board fundraisers have resigned, and a lawsuit has been filed over the firings. The reason? APT executives reportedly refused to air Barton’s problematic documentary.
One wonders if APT’s commissioners are still so keen to push Barton’s flawed view of America’s religious history onto the state’s viewers.
One also wonders if former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee still wants America to be forced at gunpoint to listen to Barton.
“I almost wish that there would be like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced at gunpoint … to listen to every David Barton message,” said Huckabee in 2011.
One wonders if the Texas Board of Education still sees Barton as an “expert” on what ought to be in textbooks.
One wonders if the church libraries with Barton’s books and videos will leave them on the shelves or remove them as unreliable for the credible study of religious history.
For now, one may nod with approval to conservatives who are challenging one who discredits conservatives.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.
Robert M. Parham (1953 – 2017) was the founder and executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics from 1991 to 2017. He served as executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, BCE’s website, from its launch in 2002 until 2017.