David Barton is probably not a household name in most parts of the country, but as the right's favorite pseudo-historian, he's a surprisingly influential character.
That is, at least he was.
A Republican activist in Texas and twice a guest on "The Daily Show," Barton has positioned himself as a wannabe American history scholar -- despite not having real academic credentials or training -- who sets out to prove the nation's founders wanted the United States to be a "Christian Nation." Unfortunately for Barton, his materials are filled with claims that don't stand up well to scrutiny.
For many conservatives, that hasn't made a difference. Barton is very popular on the Republican speakers' circuit, and Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck, among others, rely heavily on Barton's "scholarship" as part of a larger culture war agenda. Sure, Barton's work has been discredited repeatedly, but primarily by liberals and "secularists" -- folks the right have been conditioned to ignore.
Unfortunately for Barton, however, the condemnations have broadened in a way that should do irreparable harm to his career. My friend and former colleague Rob Boston had this report yesterday.
[Barton] recently penned a book about Thomas Jefferson titled The Jefferson Lies. In the tome, Barton argues that for most of his life, Jefferson was an orthodox Christian who really didn't support church-state separation.
Unlike Barton's earlier books, The Jefferson Lies was not self-published. It even appeared briefly on The New York Times bestsellers list.
This proved to be too much for some of Barton's Christian critics, and they fired back.
Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter of Grove City College in Pennsylvania wrote a detailed fact-check, debunking Barton, but they weren't alone. Jon Fea, associate professor of American History and chair of the History Department at Messiah College, soon did the same, as did World magazine, a conservative Christian news outlet, which asked 10 conservative Christian professors to examine Barton's work, all of whom were critical.
Then a mainstream media outlet caught wind of this -- NPR aired a devastating story on Barton's deceptive and unsupported work yesterday.
By last night, Barton's own publisher announced that it has pulled the book, ceasing its publication and distribution due to Barton's inaccuracies.
This appears to be the sort of development that ends a career. In Barton's case, the collapse is long overdue.
Incidentally, Barton will be in Tampa later this month -- he serves as a representative to the GOP Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention.