NPR ran a story on Wednesday about David Barton, the Aledo-based pseudo-historian who has built a career arguing that America was established on Christian principles. It found that his claims aren't particularly hard to debunk. For one, Barton has only a bachelor's in Christian education from Oral Roberts University, with no formal training as a historian. And all those parts of the Constitution he said were taken directly from the Bible, verbatim? They weren't.
Still, Barton has remained a favorite of the far right. Mike Huckabee, for example, suggested that America would be a better place if everyone was forced, at gunpoint, to listen to Barton. Nor have his well-documented inaccuracies prevented him from serving for a decade as vice-chair of the Texas Republican Party or of being brought in as an expert consultant when the Texas State Board of Education revamped its social studies curriculum in 2010 or of reaching The New York Times best-seller list with his most recent book, The Jefferson Lies.
It surprised no one when scholars summarily debunked many of the claims the book makes. It surprised everyone when publisher Thomas Nelson announced yesterday that it had "lost confidence in the book's details" and was pulling it off the market.
In the past, Barton has dismissed critics on the grounds that they are liberals or have an inaccurate view of history or are simply jealous of his influence. But to be shown the door by a conservative Christian publisher like Thomas Nelson seems harder to cast aside.
"It's gratifying to know you can't build a career distorting history and get away with it forever," said Ryan Valentine, deputy director of the SBOE watchdog Texas Freedom Network.
The larger question, though, is whether Barton will retain his influence with those who have been sufficiently enchanted by his assertion that America is a Christian nation to ignore his myriad misrepresentations.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Bud Kennedy at the Star-Telegram sees Thomas Nelson's decision as a sign of Barton's waning influence.
Valentine's not so sure. "That'll be the interesting story in the next few days." He expects Barton to continue to be a regular guest of Glenn Beck, but whether he will continue to be so enthusiastically cited by politicians like Huckabee and Michelle Bachmann is not clear.
Also unknown is Barton's future influence on the famously conservative SBOE. The board is set to adopt new social studies textbooks in 2014 and will likely form committees to help vet them.
"It's entirely possible they could invite Mr. Barton back to play a role," Valentine said.