Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly is immensely popular. Killing Kennedy seems to be so too. I (along with numerous historians) contend that Mr. O’Reilly is simply lining his pockets and doesn’t really care if his book (Killing Lincoln) is accurate or not. To wit:
- The National Park Service will not carry the book in their stores because of it’s factual errors. Additionally they cite that in order to carry a book it must be “historically accurate . . . has relevant citations [and uses] primary resources with documentation,”;
- In North & South magazine, noted historian Edward Steers Jr. cites several instances where the book strays from documented history. He then asks: “If the authors made mistakes in names, places, and events, what else did they get wrong? How can the reader rely on anything that appears in ‘Killing Lincoln’?”
And that’s the point… the errors could have been easily corrected if the authors had done their homework (for instance, they place Lincoln in the Oval Office, a room that did not exist until 1909). Mr. O’Reilly missed an opportunity to use his fame to re-tell this story in an exciting way that could have ignited the imaginations of countless people to learn more about history. Instead he wrote an sensationalized account that sells, but fails.
For a more balanced approach I recommend a little gem, The Day Lincoln Was Shot by Jim Bishop. The book is much more entertaining than O’Reilly’s book and accurate. More detailed studies include American Brutus by Michael Kauffman and James Swanson’s Manhunt.
Jackie Hogan, in the Christian Science Monitor states, “In the end, Killing Lincoln is both a thrilling historical tale and a disappointing reminder that in today’s media and political landscape, style and image often take precedence over evidence and substance.” I could not agree more.