I’ve taken note here before of Bill O’Reilly’s execrable Killing Reagan, and highlighted the Washington Post article that I joined in writing with three other Reagan historians/biographers. Today George Will weighs in on the book in his syndicated column, calling O’Reilly’s book “slander.”
Styling himself an “investigative historian,” O’Reilly purports to have discovered amazing facts that have escaped the notice of real historians. The book’s intimated hypothesis is that the trauma of the March 1981 assassination attempt somehow triggered in Reagan a mental decline, perhaps accelerating the Alzheimer’s disease that would not be diagnosed until 13 years later. The book says Reagan was often addled to the point of incompetence, causing senior advisers to contemplate using the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to remove him from office. Well.
Well, indeed. Toward the end, Will essentially calls O’Reilly a liar, and ends with a typical Will flourish:
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.”
Since Will is a Fox News contributor, I wonder whether O’Reilly will throw a tantrum and try to get Will fired. As it happens, I recently spent an evening with a Fox News contributor who is a regular on one of their shows, and he told me that nobody at Fox likes O’Reilly, and other things that would probably draw a frivolous lawsuit from O’Reilly if repeated here.