But at least George Will is a fair person, and is one of many who have publicly ripped Bill O'Reilly's recent tome, "Killing Reagan."
Will appeared on O'Reilly's show last night in the aptly named "Personal Story," because the whole point was for O'Reilly to berate Will for bruising his fragile ego.
But it's not just George Will, there's also Craig Shirley, who has authored several books on Reagan (they are essential reading for anyone interested in Reagan), including his 1976 and 1980 campaigns, as well as his most recent "The Last Act," a look at Reagan's final years.
At his website, Shirley wrote:
So far, I’ve written four books on Ronald Reagan, written dozens of articles, given dozens of lectures, am a Trustee of Eureka College, taught a course there entitled Reagan 101, and have lectured at the Reagan Library and the Reagan Ranch. My co-authors Kengor, Skinner and Hayward are equally knowledgeable about our 40th president.
Thus, it is fair to say we probably know a little bit more about Ronald Reagan than Bill O’Reilly. We certainly know the facts of Ronald Reagan.Reagan's attorney general Ed Meese is another:
We have watched numerous television interviews of Mr. O’Reilly since the release of “Killing Reagan” to assess the reasons he wrote the book. O’Reilly calls himself an “investigative historian” and claims such an approach “offers something new.” But there is “new” and there is “accurate”—and it’s unwise to confuse the two. O’Reilly says what he’s discovered is that for some of the time Reagan was in office, he was incapacitated to the point that it was questionable whether he could capably serve in the role of president of the United States.
But this assertion is neither new nor accurate. The “investigative historian” has swung and missed. One need only turn to “Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988” by Jane Mayer and Doyle McManus to learn that during Reagan’s second term, a memo (not a “study” as O’Reilly puts it) written by a newly arrived White House staffer suggested that Reagan’s diminished mental capacity compromised his ability to effectively perform as president. A shocking allegation to be sure, were it true. The historical record proves that it was not.
...What we learned from “Landslide” is that this staffer, James Cannon, went beyond his initial charge to assess the White House operation and began collecting gossip and rumors about the president. Cannon hears second-hand and third-hand innuendo that led him to question the president’s mental capacity. In his memo, Cannon highlights the concerns he has heard and suggests, incredibly, that the 25th Amendment—the one about relieving the president of his duties—might be in order.
And so, on March 2, 1997, Howard Baker and James Cannon, along with two other White House aides—Thomas Griscom and A.B. Culvahouse—bracketed the president at a meeting in the Cabinet Room to watch him closely. The Los Angeles Times later reported what happened next: “To Cannon's surprise, Reagan seemed attentive and alert, charming and glib—the same Ronald Reagan he had known for years,” the paper reported.
The newspaper quoted Baker as saying that although he didn’t dismiss James Cannon’s concerns out of hand, he never seriously considered invoking the 25th Amendment because “from the first time I saw [Reagan] he was fully in control and I never had any question about his mental competence.”
The L.A. Times also identified the sources who gossiped about the president—aides to deposed White House chief-of-staff Don Regan. In other words, the people bad-mouthing the president were people who had been fired and were not happy about it.
Yet now, in describing the very genesis of his “Killing Reagan” book, Bill O’Reilly says that “Baker was worried [Reagan] wasn’t up to the job.” This is plainly not true. Culvahouse terms his account a “myth.”
“That was thoroughly discredited when it first appeared 27 years ago,” he told us. “It should be returned to the dust bin of fiction masquerading as history.”Someone else who has a wealth of knowledge about the real Reagan is someone who served under Meese, radio talk show host Mark Levin.
Levin called O'Reilly's book "a cheap smear" and invited the 8pm blowhard on his radio show. O'Reilly doesn't have the courage to take up the offer, because he'd come off looking worse than he did when he was attacking George Will last night.
Even more telling, O'Reilly never bothered to contact any of the Reagan family, as Michael Reagan has noted.
...If an author is writing a book on the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, I have a news flash: I’m still alive.
“Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency” by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard is the second book to come out this year that completely failed to contact any surviving members of the Reagan family so we could put the event into context.
Earlier this summer H.W. Brands released his biography “Reagan: The Life” although for many of the incidents contained within the book a more accurate title would have been “Reagan: The Lie.”Even the dancer, Ronald Prescott (because he doesn't act like a real Reagan), made one intelligent statement in his life, saying O'Reilly is a "snake-oil salesman."
If George Will ever felt the need to after last night, he would have a wealth of co-authors to help him write and publish a book entitled "Killing O'Reilly's Ego."
(Viewer warning - language)