George Will Dismantles Bill O’Reilly’s Ronald Reagan Claims

George Will Dismantles Bill O’Reilly’s Ronald Reagan Claims

George Will Dismantles Bill O’Reilly’s Ronald Reagan Claims

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard released a book on Ronald Reagan back in September. ‘Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency,’ is a book that claims to take you behind the scenes of what really transpired after Reagan’s assassination attempt, which took place only two months into his Presidency. However, since its release, their book has faced harsh criticism from those who have studied the life of Reagan, worked along side him, and have written countless articles on his legacy.

In this best-selling book, there are no endnotes, no bibliography, no long list of interviewees and only a smattering of footnotes. There is a section titled “Sources,” but it is only two-and-a-half pages long. It includes about two dozen sources, but that is not adequate for a subject, Ronald Reagan, who has been the focus of thousands of books and articles and who was one of the most consequential political figures of the 20th century. The works of three of us are not noted at all, and between the four of us, we have written 19 books on Reagan, not to mention countless articles. The sources section does, however, reference long-questionable works, including the sensational 1991 attack by Kitty Kelley — which is clearly incorporated throughout the book — and the 1999 biography by Edmund Morris, roundly criticized for its intermingling of fact and fiction.

They continue:

Unfortunately, “Killing Reagan” shows that the old misinformation (if not disinformation) still remains with us, like a demon that cannot be exorcised. It regurgitates and resurrects much material that we had thought (and hoped) was dead and done.

The excerpts above are taken from an article written by Craig Shirley, Kiron K. Skinner, Paul Kengor, and Steven F. Hayward, who between the four of them have 19 books on Reagan under their belt.

A large part of the storyline refers to the erroneous contention that there was serious consideration about removing Reagan from office via the 25th Amendment after John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate him in 1981. What’s so remarkable about the 11 days Reagan spent in the hospital recovering from his wounds is that beyond the standard discussion of temporary presidential disability among some of the president’s closest aides, none of these aides or cabinet members attempted to invoke the 25thAmendment or succession laws. Former Attorney General Ed Meese, who was not interviewed for this book but who served as Reagan’s closest aide and friend for many years, was dismissive of the allegation about the 25th Amendment as utterly and completely false. We four have interviewed Meese often, and some of us have talked to him about this book and its sourcing.

They go on to note that out of the hundreds of former Reagan White House Staffers, not one has corroborated the alleged misinformation found in ‘Killing Reagan.’ In addition, it goes on to paint Reagan as a sexual deviant who who was cheating on Nancy during the birth of their daughter, which all four authors disregard as simply “scandalizing material” that is seriously lacking any credible sources. 

But there is no citation in the back of the book. If the source for that section is in the back of the book, then it could be Kitty Kelley, because these are the kind of claims she has made. The book itself does not make the source clear. This kind of shocking material must be clearly sourced.

The Washington Post also released this video, a condensed version of the article:

The above noted article was released on October 16th, but yesterday, November 5th, it was George Will who called O’Reilly and Dugard to the carpet – in brutal fashion, I might add.

Donald Trump is just one symptom of today’s cultural pathology of self-validating vehemence with blustery certitudes substituting for evidence. Another is the fact that the book atop the New York Times nonfiction bestseller listis a tissue of unsubstantiated assertions. Because of its vast readership, “Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency” by Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and his collaborator,, Martin Dugard, will distort public understanding of Ronald Reagan’s presidency more than hostile but conscientious scholars could.

Uh, ouch? I mean, is “ouch” the right word to use when someone verbally eviscerates you? It is sad that in today’s society we strive so strongly for shock and awe that we are willing to hand over the legacy of one of the greatest presidents in our history for the “excitement” of a scandal. The book even ends with a ridiculous notion that supernatural activity at Reagan’s ranch is said to be The Gipper’s ghost, a ludicrous and unsubstantiated claim that the ranch adamantly denies. Will Continues:

The book’s pretense of scholarship involves 151 footnotes, only one of which is even remotely pertinent to the book’s lurid assertions. Almost all contain irrelevant tidbits (”Reagan’s hair was actually brown”). At the Reagan Library, where researchers must register, records show that neither O’Reilly nor Dugard, who churn out a book a year, used its resources. The book’s two and a half pages of “sources” unspecifically and implausibly refer to “FBI and CIA files,” “presidential libraries” and travel “around the world.” They also cite Kitty Kelley’s scabrous 1991 Nancy Reagan “biography,” a sewer of rumors and innuendos that probably is the source of the sexual factoids O’Reilly and Dugard recycle.

George notes that long time Reagan authors and Reagan book editors were offered money to evaluate the manuscript of “Killing Reagan.”

Dugard sought research advice from former representative Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who served in Reagan’s White House counsel’s office. Cox put Dugard in touch with former California governor Pete Wilson and several Reagan historians. Wilson and Cox warned that historians’ criticisms could hurt the book’s reception. Then O’Reilly charged on Fox News that Wilson and Cox somehow threatened him, adding gratuitously and falsely that Cox, as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, “presided over the mortgage debacle that collapsed the economy in 2007,” an explanation of the autumn 2008 collapse that is simply weird.

Cox put the book’s publisher in touch with Annelise Anderson, who, with her late husband Marty, a longtime Reagan adviser, has authored and edited serious books about Reagan. She was offered $5,000 and given just one week to evaluate the manuscript. Having read it, she declined compensation, saying mildly, “I don’t think this manuscript is ready for publication.”

The book’s perfunctory pieties about Reagan’s greatness are inundated by its flood of regurgitated slanders about his supposed lassitude and manipulability. This book is nonsensical history and execrable citizenship, and should come with a warning: “Caution — you are about to enter a no-facts zone.”

O’Reilly responded last night with what can only be described as a tantrum, see below:

O’Reilly notes the difference between “slander” and “libel,” in similar fashion to how someone without argument may trash the appearance of their opponent. However, he fails to note that George Will was meticulous and detailed in his review of the book, giving factual evidence for the issues he found.

Come on, Bill, if you’re going to attack the good name of Ronald Reagan, you better come to the table with sources for all of your baseless claims, otherwise you just look like a vitriolic self-aggrandizing tool who is looking to score a large payout by sullying the name of a great man.

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  • Jodi G. says:

    With all due respect, Will just had his rear handed to him on The Factor.

    I haven’t read this book yet, but I will, and will decide for myself its merits.

  • Linda says:

    @Jodi, that was not someone getting handed his rear. But it *was* a great example of callowness…as in immature. OReilly really didn’t take his own advice in practicing restraint.

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