David Barton Tells Glenn Beck a More Obvious Lie to Refute the Refutation of a Less Obvious Lie
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 07:26:52 PM EST

On Thursday's episode of Glenn Beck's web-based GBTV show, Beck's guest was none other than pseudo-historian David Barton, who, as everybody knows by now, just got his bestselling book The Jefferson Lies pulled by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. Barton was on Beck's show to refute the critics and save face with his followers. (And Beck will be publishing the next edition of Barton's Jefferson book through his publishing arm.)

One of the lies that Barton has been telling for a very long time in his presentation and TV appearances is that Thomas Jefferson signed his presidential documents not just "in the year of our Lord," but "in the year of our Lord Christ."

For many years, Barton had claimed to have in his possession a document that proved that Jefferson signed his documents, but he had never revealed in his books or on his website exactly what this mysterious document was. I knew that it had to be some sort of document written by someone else that Jefferson had merely signed, but all I could do was guess at what it might be until October 2008, when I actually attended on of Barton's presentations. At that presentation, Barton showed a corner of the document on the big TV screen, but not enough to tell what it was.

A few months after I attended his presentation, David Barton decided to bash me on his radio show, Wallbuilders LIVE! (which is actually pre-recorded; seriously, this guy can't even give his radio show an honest name). At the October 2008 presentation that I attended, I had gone up to Barton and given him a copy of my 2006 book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, a book that debunks dozens of the lies from his earlier books and videos. In January 2009, he decided to come after me on his radio show, where he not only lied about my book, but lied about our encounter at his presentation (which was pretty dumb considering he knew that I had the whole encounter on video, since my friend with the video camera had made no attempt to hide that we were filming it). But the details of all that are unimportant now, except for the fact that a couple of months later I decided to make a series of videos on YouTube showing not only that Barton's version of what occurred at his 2008 presentation was not true, but debunking a whole bunch of the lies he had told in the presentation itself. I put these videos on YouTube in March 2009.

Since I mentioned this mystery document in my video series, and that Barton was deliberately trying to keep anyone from seeing what it was, guess what happened - an image of the ships' papers document suddenly appeared on Barton's website. Now I finally knew what Barton's mysterious "in the year of our Lord Christ" Jefferson document was. This was a pre-printed form that ships leaving America had to carry (sometimes also referred to as a passport or a sea letter) that was printed by the hundreds, if not thousands. Each president signed a big stack of these forms in advance to be distributed to the all the ports, where they would be filled out as needed by port officials.

Fast forward to 2010 when Barton was appearing as a regular guest on Beck's old show on FOX. I started making a series of videos that I called the "No, Mr. Beck ..." series, each video debunking a different lie that Barton had told on Beck's show, and posting them on HuffPo and in a few other places. One of these videos was titled "No, Mr. Beck, Jefferson Did Not Date His Documents 'In the Year of Our Lord Christ.'" (If you can't or don't want to watch the video, I included a transcription of it when I first posted it back in June 2010.)

(The rest of the "No, Mr. Beck ..." series videos can be found on the homepage of my website if anybody wants to watch the rest of them.)

Now, fast forward to April 2012. Barton's book The Jefferson Lies is published, and, of course, the Jefferson ships' papers lie that I had debunked way back in 2009 is in the book.

In May 2012, someone else who's been writing some blog posts about Barton for the past couple of years puts out a little book refuting The Jefferson Lies, and includes a bunch of the lies that I had debunked in my book and my videos between 2006 and 2010. Among these was the one about the ships' papers. This book refuting Barton's book came out in May 2012, just a mont after barton's book was released. (I'm also writing a book debunking The Jefferson Lies, but mine isn't quite finished yet because I'm including a bunch of brand new, never used before lies that Barton came up for his new book and had to do some research to debunk those new ones.)

Now it's August 2012, and Barton's book has been pulled by it's publisher. Barton needs to save face with his believers, and is quite mind-bogglingly managing to do just that. They all seem to still believe him, and lots of them are praying for him. Barton is well on his way to coming out of this whole thing virtually unscathed.

Now, Barton's face saving certainly would not be complete without an appearance on his pal Glenn Beck's show, which is where we get to the reason for the title of my post. You've probably already forgot what the tile was, right? OK ... so you don't have to scroll all the way back up to the top and lose your place, it was "David Barton Tells Glenn Beck More Obvious Lie to Refute Debunking of Less Obvious Lie."

So, what was this more obvious lie that Barton told on Beck's show? Watch this clip from the show, where Barton is attempting to refute the debunking of his ships' papers lie, and you'll hear it.

Did any of you history buffs catch it? Barton's example of Jefferson not bowing to another government entity when he was president was that he released the men imprisoned under the Sedition Act, even though it was a federal law that the courts had upheld! Barton may lack honesty, but he certainly has some cojones! This isn't a lie about some obscure document like his ships' papers lie that he got away with for years by simply not revealing exactly what the document was. This guy actually thinks he's going to get away with lying about the freakin' Alien and Sedition Acts, something that anyone who has studied American history in even the slightest depth would know all about.

Here's a transcription of what Barton said:

"Jefferson has a long record of not doing presidential things that he disagrees with. The Alien and Sedition Acts were a federally passed law. We have twenty-four guys sitting in jail because the courts enforced it. Jefferson disagreed with it. He took all twenty-four out of jail. He refused to enforce the law. Anything he disagrees with he doesn't do. If he had trouble with that [the way the ships' papers were dated], it's a government printer."

By the time that Jefferson took office, the Sedition Act had expired. Jefferson, of course, opposed this act, but this had nothing to do with him freeing anybody who was imprisoned under it. The Sedition Act had been passed by Jefferson's Federalist political rivals and signed by John Adams in 1798 to keep Jefferson's Republican political supporters from writing anything bad about the Federalist Adams administration! The act's expiration date was March 3, 1801, the last day before the end of Adams's term as president. Jefferson didn't have to stand up to anyone to free anybody!

And there weren't even twenty-four prisoners even when there actually were prisoners. There were only ten men who were even convicted under the act to begin with, and even fewer who were actually put in jail, with the longest sentence being eighteen months, and the rest being much shorter than that. I'm pretty sure that James Callender, who would later turn on Jefferson and publish the Sally Hemings story, was the only one actually still in jail when the act expired on March 3, 1801. The rest (with the exception of one other who had finished serving his actual sentence months before Jefferson took office, but didn't have the money to pay the fine he had also gotten) had been freed long before Jefferson became president.

And, as I explained in my "No, Mr. Beck " video above, Jefferson couldn't have changed the wording of the date on this form even if he had wanted to. The language was mandated by an international treaty from 1782 and had to appear exactly as it did in a document annexed to that treaty, and the language was written by a country that was a Christian nation, so that's how they dated it.

I'm sure that a few more whoppers await us as Barton continues to weasel out of this little predicament he's gotten himself into, particularly since this was only the first of what will be several appearances on Glenn Beck's show. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!

I am sure you are probably very puzzled as to why Barton and his followers are not phased by having his lies exposed.
I know I am. A book by Chris Mooney called "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science - and Reality" gives some interesting insights into why they think the way they do.

I quote this from the book cover flap...

"Part of the answer lies with motivated reasoning--the psychological phenomenon of preferring only evidence that backs up your belief--but in The Republican Brain, Mooney explains that is just the tip of the cognitive iceberg. There is a growing body of evidence that conservatives and liberals don't just have differing ideologies; they have different psychologies. How could the rejection of mainstream science be growing among Republicans, along with the denial of expert consensus on the economy, American history, foreign policy, and much more? Why won't Republicans accept things that most experts agree on? Why are they constantly fighting against the facts? Increasingly, the answer appears to be: it's just part of who they are.

"Mooney explores brain scans, polls, and psychology experiments to explain why conservatives today believe more wrong things; appear more likely than Democrats to oppose new ideas; are less likely to change their beliefs in the face of new facts; and sometimes respond to compelling evidence by doubling down on their current beliefs.

"The answer begins with some measurable personality traits that strongly correspond with political preferences. For instance, people more wedded to certainty tend to become conservatives; people craving novelty, liberals. Surprisingly, openness to new experiences and fastidiousness are better predictors of political preference than income or education. If you like to keep your house neat and see the world in a relatively black and white way, you're probably going to vote Republican. If you've recently moved to a big city to see what else life has to offer, you're probably going to vote Democrat. These basic differences in openness and curiosity, Mooney argues, fuel an "expertise gap" between left and right that explains much of the battle today over what is true."

If Mooney is right you will never convince Barton to change his views. But please don't stop your efforts to publicly shame him at every opportunity, and limit the spread of the Barton memes.

by PastorJennifer on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 10:29:41 PM EST

It's not even to get his die-hard followers to change their views. That's never going to happen. My goal is to get liberals (and also conservatives who are not so far gone that they've lost touch with reality and/or condone using revisionist history to promote their political agenda) to recognize how influential and dangerous Barton and his work are in order to stop him from being able to do further damage, especially to education.

by Chris Rodda on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 12:29:35 AM EST
And thank you for doing that job! I would probably have given up in the face of this kind of intractability...

by PastorJennifer on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 05:50:08 AM EST
and I know that it is important, and not many are willing to slog through all that nonsense, without throwing their hands up in defeat. Think how bad things would be now if not for the few brave souls willing to battle in the trenches like this.

by trog69 on Sun Aug 19, 2012 at 11:58:43 AM EST

In an interview with Glenn Beck, right-wing Christian author and historian David Barton claimed that the Founding Fathers were more religious than has been portrayed in recent years. Los Angeles County He then went on to say that the Founding Fathers would not have supported the separation of church and state, which is a clear misrepresentation of their views.

by isabelladom on Sun Nov 06, 2022 at 10:53:35 PM EST

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