Glenn Beck’s and David Barton’s Mercury One at the Heart of Lincoln Museum History Scandal

In June 2018, Glenn Beck borrowed the Gettysburg Address from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One of only five handwritten copies of the address from the time period, the document is valued at $20-million. In hindsight, the transaction, for which Beck paid $50,000, has become a political scandal in Illinois and triggered the firing of the executive director of the Lincoln museum. The Chief Operating Officer of the Lincoln museum was allowed to resign and eventually ended up working for Beck’s charity Mercury One. The IG report also contains an unflattering assessment of David Barton as a historian.

The incident, which Beck celebrated live in 2018, was investigated by the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General due to a tip from an anonymous consumer. The report found that allegations of wrongdoing were sound and based in fact. The report states that the museum should never have let Mercury One have the Gettysburg Address given the slipshod arrangements and David Barton’s reputation as a historian.

Read the Inspector General’s Report

In the quotes below, the players are Alan Lowe, former executive director of the Lincoln museum, Carla Smith, registrar of the Lincoln museum, Samuel Wheeler, historian with the state of Illinois, Nadine O’Leary, museum chief of staff, and Michael Little, Chief Operating Officer of the Lincoln museum (and now Mercury One). Other than Beck and David Barton, Courtney Mayden is also mentioned. She is an employee of Mercury One with some unspecified training in handling historical documents.

The Hasty Gettysburg Address Loan

On June 8, Beck’s charity Mercury One and the Executive Director of the Lincoln museum Alan Lowe initiated negotiations to bring the Gettysburg Address to Beck’s Right and Responsibilities exhibit in Dallas. After only 8 days, the document was shipped to Texas. Beck displayed the document to just over 2300 people who attended the exhibit.

The complaint alleged that Lowe mismanaged the loan process. According to the IG report, that allegation was accurate. From the IG report:

Mr. Lowe made the decision to loan the Gettysburg Address and other artifacts to Mercury One in violation of the HPA Board’s 2013 Resolution, contrary to HPA loan policies, and without following standard museum practices, much less providing the heightened level of care that would seem prudent for the rare and extremely valuable artifact Mr. Lowe described as a linchpin of the ALPLM’s collection. The allegation that Mr. Lowe mismanaged the ALPLM by loaning the Gettysburg Address and other artifacts to Mercury One, without following the HPA Board’s 2013 Resolution, HPA policies, or standard museum loan practices, is FOUNDED.

Earlier this year, Lowe was fired from his position by Governor J.B. Pritzker, although he did not say why. Two other players in the drama continue to have a connection to Mercury One.

The first one I will mention is Michael Little. The IG report documents over 50 contacts with Mercury One he had prior to being permitted to resign over this snafu. As a part of leaving state employment, employees are required to divulge contacts with new employers. Little said he didn’t have any with Mercury One other than his interview. However, the IG found over 50 emails between Little and staff at Mercury One. Little was subsequently hired as the Chief Operating Officer at Mercury One. So the current COO at Mercury One misled the state of Illinois just prior to taking his job.

An Instant No

That brings me to David Barton. For fun, I will quote what the IG report has to say about Barton.

According to an online Texas arts calendar, visitors to Mercury One’s Rights & Responsibilities exhibition in June 2018 could expect to see items Mercury One was sharing from its own collection, including an exploding rat from World War II, whose designer inspired the James Bond character Q; as well as a facsimile engraving of a draft Declaration of Independence; Mary Todd Lincoln’s dress; and Lincoln’s collar. The calendar indicated that Mercury One charged $20 for adult general admission, $750 for private VIP tours with Mr. Beck, $350 for private tours with David Barton, and $250 for private tours with other Mercury One staff. According to the calendar, during the private tours Mr. Beck, Mr. Barton, and the other staff were to provide their “own unique perspective on our rights and responsibilities.”

The Lincoln museum staff didn’t know anything about Barton until after the fact. However, as the passage below shows, they did a little late homework.

Ms. Smith and Dr. Wheeler told investigators that at the time of the loan, they did not know what else was going to be displayed at Mercury One’s exhibition. Ms. Smith said that information is relevant to the consideration of whether it is appropriate for the ALPLM’s artifacts to be displayed or interpreted alongside the other items in the exhibit. Dr. Wheeler said that it is a “betrayal of public trust” to not have known what the Mercury One exhibit was about, what other pieces would be displayed alongside the ALPLM and Foundation artifacts, or how the exhibit would be presented.

The museum registrar (Smith) and Illinois state historian (Wheeler) were bothered after the fact that Executive Director Lowe had let the Gettysburg Address be displayed along with artifacts of questionable reputation. But then they got to Barton’s reputation and they were really troubled.

In addition, Ms. Smith and Dr. Wheeler said they later learned concerning information about David Barton’s reputation. In 2012, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson recalled all copies and ceased publication of Mr. Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, after it learned that “there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.” The book was voted the “least credible history book in print” in a 2012 reader poll by the History News Network, a George Washington University online publication “created to give historians the opportunity to reach a national audience on issues of public concern.” Dr. Wheeler said that based on what he later learned about Mr. Barton, he believed that “under no circumstances” should the ALPLM be associated with him. Ms. Smith said that if she had known what she later learned about Mr. Barton’s reputation, the 2018 loan would have been an “instant no.”

No to the Emancipation Proclamation

Earlier this year, Beck wanted to borrow the Emancipation Proclamation with Barton listed as Curator of the exhibit. The museum, partly for that reason, turned Mercury One down.

Ms. Smith told investigators that after she received the letter of request and facility report, she convened the ALPLM collections staff, and the staff unanimously recommended to deny the loan request. She stated that she sent Mr. Lowe and Ms. O’Leary a detailed list of reasons why staff recommended not doing the loan. The listed reasons included that some of the information provided in the Standard Facility Report was incomplete or required clarification; concerns about Mr. Barton being listed as a Curator who would be interpreting ALPLM artifacts, given his reputation as a historian; and concerns about Mr. Little being listed as the Registrar or Collections Manager, given his lack of qualifications for handling artifacts. Ms. Smith said that Mr. Little’s history of mishandling artifacts at the ALPLM was also of concern.

In the end, the museum did not loan the Emancipation Proclamation to Beck’s project, 12 Score and 3 Years Ago. That didn’t stop Barton and Beck from promoting the event as if the Emancipation Proclamation was going to be there. Here is Barton claiming those in attendance would see it.

On Beck’s Mercury One website, the nonprofit still lists the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as a partner. However, this does not appear to be accurate. Not only was Lowe fired, current Mercury One COO Michael Little is not allowed to ever work for the state of Illinois. Given the results of this report, it is hard to see the two organizations ever working together again. It is deceptive for Barton and Mercury One to tout a relationship that not only isn’t true but is the subject of a scathing report by the Illinois Inspector General.

 

Illinois Times columnist Bruce Rushton has been on this story from the beginning and deserves credit for being on top of it.

Why is Rick Wiles on @Apple Podcasts?

Rick Wiles is a far right conspiracy theorist who doesn’t like Jews. He also promotes his own “news” service called TruNews. In a recent podcast, he blamed a “Jew Coup” for Donald Trump’s impeachment problems. Right Wing Watch and various news sites covered it; watch:

‘Jew Coup’: Impeachment Effort Prompts Another Anti-Semitic Tirade from Rick Wiles from Right Wing Watch on Vimeo.

Wiles started by saying Jews were liars and ended by claiming they planned to kill millions of Christian.

That’s the way the Jews work, they are deceivers, they plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda.

According to Wiles the political agenda is impeachment and Jews have plans for those who resist.

This is a coup led by Jews to overthrow the constitutionally elected president of the United States and it’s beyond removing Donald Trump, it’s removing you and me. That’s what’s at the heart of it.

“You have been taken over by a Jewish cabal. The church of Jesus Christ, you’re next. Get it through your head! They’re coming for you. There will be a purge. That’s the next thing that happens when Jews take over a country, they kill millions of Christians.

Wiles at the White House and Apple?

This is crazy talk and racist in the extreme. Although I am sad to learn that Wiles has access to White House press credentials, I am not surprised. I was surprised to find Wiles podcasts easily available on Apple’s podcast service.

Apple has standards for podcasters and one of those includes prohibition of racist content.

Apple can fail, reject, or remove your podcast from Apple Podcasts for a variety of reasons. For example, Apple might fail, reject, or remove your podcast if the podcast or any content linked from the podcast contains any of the following:

There is a list of reasons given and one of them is this:

Content that could be construed as racist, misogynist, or homophobic.

I certify that Wiles content can be construed as antisemitic. There is nothing redeeming about spreading lies and prejudice. Wiles shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the White House or given interviews with people in the administration. Youtube removed his video of this message, now Apple should do the same. In fact a perusal of the rest of the content will quickly implicate much of it as in violation of Apple’s standards.

Don’t Like Eric Metaxas’ New Book? He Doesn’t Care.

David Barton (left), Eric Metaxas (right)

After being taken to task for his kids-not-kids book Donald Builds the Wall, Eric Metaxas now says the book was not originally for kids. In an interview with John Zmirak at The Stream, Metaxas said:

METAXAS: Oddly enough I did not originally write these books for kids!!! Some of us can appreciate what this president is accomplishing. Others enjoy the outrageousness of him as a lovable cave-man character on the international stage. So we deserve a book about him that is almost as entertaining as he is. Maybe almost as outrageous and funny.

Despite the facts that he told CBN that the book is “obviously” for kids and his publisher called the book “the children’s book and political parable that America needs right now,” Metaxas is now out with this contrasting narrative. Whatever age he wants to target, he thinks his book is hilarious.

Of course he does.

The interview with Zmirak has the quality of two frat boys ridiculing non-frat boys who aren’t nearly as cool or smart as they are. There is no recognition that criticism of his book may have merit or is sincerely offered. Those who don’t find the book to be amazing and shower praise on Metaxas are “ill-informed,” “self-righteous and pompous,” or likened to “fascists.”

This is a typical response from Metaxas. When John Fea and others found multiple historical errors in his book If You Can Keep It, Metaxas reacted with astonishment and attacked Fea’s patriotism and character. Metaxas has yet to acknowledge that he helped spread one of the most popular false quotes among Christians by incorrectly citing the follow phrases attributed to Bonhoeffer:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

There is no record Bonhoeffer said or wrote this. Despite the fact that Metaxas is aware of this, he has yet to make a correction or acknowledge that he cited it incorrectly.

Metaxas told Zmirak he prays for his detractors. I don’t know how he could since he blocks them on social media when they cross him or raise a concern. He blocked me on Twitter when I raised the matter of the Bonhoeffer quote.

So, don’t like his book? Who cares. He doesn’t. Find historical errors? No, you didn’t. He doesn’t make errors. In fact, you are a loser for pointing it out. But take heart, self-righteous fascist, Rev. Metaxas will pray for you.

 

For more on what it is like to tangle with Metaxas, see my post on journalist Jon Ward’s revealing email exchange with Metaxas.