Tag Archives: fact-checking

‘The Jefferson Lies’ Bestseller Dropped by Publisher for Factual Errors

It takes a lot to have a publisher completely drop an author’s book and ask that bookstores stop selling it. Such is the case with David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson.

According to Huffington Post, publisher Thomas Nelson decided to stop the presses after the bestseller took heat for having factual errors. The Jefferson Lies is Barton’s attempt at telling the “true” story of Jefferson, one that makes him seem less racist, less bigoted, and less secularist, as Meredith Bennett-Smith explains.

In an early press release for the book, Barton was depicted as a historian’s version of David, battling against the Goliath forces of secularizing liberal revisionists, USA Today notes.

“History books routinely teach that Jefferson was an anti-Christian secularist, rewriting the Bible to his liking, fathering a child with one of his slaves, and little more than another racist, bigoted colonist — but none of those claims are actually true,” the press release stated.

But as it turned out, many of Barton’s claims were hard to verify, and in July the book was voted “the least credible history book in print,” by readers of the History News Network.

Religious groups were starting to organize protests, while other religious experts condemned Barton’s writing. Now it’s finally come to a head. The book is still available through Amazon, but Thomas Nelson has stopped new shipments, recalled copies from bookstores and asked other retailers to stop selling the e-book.

I don’t know about you, but all this controversy actually makes me want to read the book more than ever. Am I the only curious one? What do you guys think?

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David Sedaris Scrutinized for “Realish” Nonfiction

When you’re a humorist who writes memoirs, how much of your storytelling must be true? That’s what NPR is asking themselves about David Sedaris, the bestselling writer who reads some of his stories for the radio station. Sedaris is best known on NPR for his now classic Christmas story about the time he spent working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s.

But Sedaris is now under fire for how much of his stories are true and how much is fabricated. It all started when, according to The Washington Post, another writer, Mike Daisey, fabricated some of the facts in his story, which aired on NPR’s This American Life, as Paul Farhi explains.

According to host and producer Ira Glass, “This American Life” began discussing Sedaris’s contributions to the program after an embarrassing episode in March, in which it acknowledged that a monologue by writer Mike Daisey contained numerous fabrications. The show “retracted” the program it aired in January, in which Daisey described harsh working conditions in the Chinese factories that make Apple’s iPhone, iPad and other products. Glass told listeners that Daisey had invented scenes, facts and people — which is exactly what Sedaris has said he’s done.

In fact-checking some of Sedaris’ tales, NPR found that he, too, had fabricated some details and characters. Sedaris admittedly called his stories “realish.”

But Sedaris is a humorist. Daisey is a journalist. Therein lies the difference. Is Sedaris — who has never been considered a journalist — allowed to exaggerate parts of his stories? Or does his title not play a factor since his work airs on NPR’s This American Life program, which airs true stories about people? It’s a tough call, and one that NPR is now closely investigating to decide the best way to proceed.

I personally think NPR should just label Sedaris’ work as partly fiction or “exaggerated” before it airs. What do you guys think? Would love to hear your opinions on this one.

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