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American Christian Historian David Barton Wins $1 Million Settlement in Defamation Suit

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Published on: December 23, 2014

American historian David Barton has a warning for anyone that wants to make false charges against him: You’re going to pay! Barton won a $1 million settlement in August against two candidates who ran for the Texas State Board of Education.

The two left-leaning candidates, Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Judy Jennings, claimed in their 2010 campaign video that Mr. Barton was “known for speaking at white-supremacist rallies.”

Barton, who is a consultant to the school board, had given speeches at two meetings in 1991 with groups that had been linked to the racist “Christian Identity” movement. The groups are also considered to be anti-Israel.

While he acknowledges that he spoke to the groups, Barton said that he did not know their ideology. As a result of finding out the groups’ ideologies, his WallBuilders organization put in a process by which they vet potential hosts to avoid future controversies about who he speaks to.

While David Barton is known for speaking about America’s Christian heritage, he is not known for speaking to “white supremacist rallies.”

WND reports on the settlement:

After nearly three years of pre-trial wrangling, including a trip to the Texas Supreme Court, where Bell-Metereau and Jennings failed in their bid to have the suit dismissed, the two settled with Barton just before the case was to go to trial in July 2014.

Barton told WND he was “very gratified” by the win and has given the monetary award away.

He also has quickly put the legal judgment to use, winning a retraction from Georgia congressional candidate Bob Barr. In a July 8 debate, Barr challenged his Barton-endorsed opponent to disavow the Christian historian because Barton had been “roundly and uniformly criticized, with facts, for taking positions that are anti-Semitic.” Barr later sent out a tweet calling Barton an “anti-Israel anti-Semitic radical.”

But when Barton’s legal team notified Barr that his claim had resulted in a painful monetary penalty for two other candidates in Texas, Barr reversed himself: “I hereby rescind in their entirety the aforesaid statements about David Barton made by me or in my behalf.”

“So, the judgments becoming known are having their desired effect,” Barton said, “in checking the growth of various falsehoods that have been freely spread in recent years.”

The two candidates entire apology was as follows:

During our respective campaigns in 2010 for separate positions on the Texas State Board of Education, we published a video entitled: “A True Tale From Texas,” that created a false impression about David Barton. The purpose of that video was to discredit our Republican Party political opponents on the State Board of Education, and those on whom they relied, by depicting their position as politically extreme and detrimental to education. Thus, the video stated that David Barton, who advised the State Board of Education, is known for speaking at white supremacist rallies. We believed that statement had been fact-checked by our political consultant, Scott Garrison, who relied for confirmation solely on information provided him from The Texas Freedom Network. As professionals in education and the proper use of language, we understand that this statement suggested that David Barton is a white supremacist, and that the two organizations he is affiliated with, WallBuilder Presentations, Inc. and WallBuilders L.L.C., were associated with or supportive of white supremacists. After learning more about Mr. Barton, we realize this statement was false. We separately and jointly apologize to Mr. Barton for damage to him individually and to his two organizations as a result of that statement.”

Texas Freedom Network claims, “Nothing we have seen in the part of the settlement that has been made public even remotely suggests that TFN provided false information about David Barton to anyone. We may provide additional information about this after we have discussed this with our counsel.”

So, is all this on Scott Garrison then? Possibly. However, that remains to be seen.

This isn’t the first victory for Barton. He won a court battle against W. S. Smith, a self-professed atheist (anti-theist), who called Barton “an admitted liar” whose “books have been picked apart time and again and exposed as fallacious” in a 2010 article. Though Smith said he would be “happy to meet” Barton in court, he was unable to be located after Barton sued him in 2011. A Texas court found that allegations by Smith against Barton to be false three years later.

Others wish that they would be sued by Barton. Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History, wanted Barton to sue her for her claims about Barton.

Rodda and others believe the issue of the history presented is what should really be on trial, and she’s right. I say, let America’s history be brought before the people to see what is true and what is false.

John Aman points out that numerous other critics of Barton have attacked David Barton’s character as well. “Examples abound. Blogger Fred Clark labels Barton an ‘outrageous liar’ in a 2013 Patheos post. A Crooks and Liars blogpost from 2012 calls Barton a ‘Liar and a Rat Fink.’ Unnamed Barton critics launched their own Facebook page, ‘David Barton and WallBuilders Are Liars,’ and atheist Ed Brayton vented on Nov. 28, ‘David Barton is simply one of the most shameless liars in this country.'”

Mr. Barton has said that he suffered economic damage as a result of the claims of Bell-Metereau and Jennings and that is what finally led to the lawsuit. However, the fallout of surrounding his book The Jefferson Lies also brought significant monetary damage, as well as an attack on his character. In fact, the fallout was so great that publisher Thomas Nelson pulled the volume, though Barton continues to sell it on his website.

“There were concerted efforts on Amazon book reviews and elsewhere to repeat those types of things, and that hurt sales,” Barton told WND. “This is something that does have economic consequences, not to mention character, reputation. And so, that’s where we decided to make the move and go after the lawsuit.”

I ask, why not sue over that? That seems to be a worthy thing to sue over just as much, if not more, than someone that claims you spoke to a group that had ties to white supremacists more than 20 years ago.

Whatever Barton does in that particular case, he did point to founders Benjamin Rush and Thomas Jefferson as those who dealt differently with attacks on their character. Rush sued and won a large settlement from a man that attacked him in print calling him a “quack doctor and a murderer,” while Thomas Jefferson didn’t take those who opposed him to court. Barton said as a result of Jefferson’s inaction, it has “caused him now to be considered guilty of what he didn’t deny.” Specifically, Barton referenced the allegations of a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings.

This, to me, seems all the more reason for Barton to take these other people who have attacked his character and work to court, but we’ll see if that happens.

Also, The Blaze reports that Barton has given all of the money away. “All the money that we received as a result we gave away,” Barton told TheBlaze Monday, declining to share information about the recipient.

In the meantime, he has let it be known that he is not fearful of what men say, but has let his opponents know that he is willing to take a stand against them… and in this particular situation, has demonstrated that it may cost those who speak out quite a bit of money.

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