This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the book was pulled from the gift shop Saturday:
The $50 book about Donald Trump was displayed at the very front of the National Museum of American History’s gift shop, its red-white-and-blue cover featuring the newly inaugurated president’s signature stare-and-hair.
“Donald Trump: 45th President of the United States Collector’s Vault” shared real estate with acclaimed nonfiction by established historians such as James M. McPherson, Roger Lowenstein and Walter Isaacson. But the Trump book, written by Brandon Christopher Hall, a 25-year-old from Atlanta, might not meet their standards for accuracy. Or the standards of the Smithsonian museum, a publicly funded repository of 3 million artifacts — “all true national treasures,” the museum says — that include Thomas Jefferson’s Bible and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.
The Trump book, which is heavy on photos and pullout memorabilia and bears the words “Make America Great Again” on its cover, contains a series of false assertions:
●On Trump’s years of challenging of President Obama’s birthplace and citizenship: “Donald Trump took the fall for what should have been the fault of Hillary Clinton, whose campaign first propagated the misinformation about President Obama.”
●On the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers: No proof it was the Russians, the book maintains, despite the intelligence community’s assessment that the evidence against the Russians is overwhelming. “The Clinton campaign desperately claimed that Russia hacked the DNC and that Putin was trying to influence the American election. This was a strange maneuver on their part. . . . Outside her most loyal supporters, the tactic flopped and most Americans were able to see through this blatant manipulation to distract them from the ugly truth.”
●On Trump’s surprise victory on Nov. 8: “Sweeping” and “decisive.” Clinton only won the popular vote by 200,000 ballots, the book says — although her edge was actually almost 3 million.
●On Trump’s history of charitable giving: The new president “is a kind-hearted philanthropist and humanitarian,” according to the book, although he went years without contributing any money to his own charitable foundation.
It’s not clear how the “richly illustrated memory-book” landed in the venerable history museum on the Mall, which attracts about 5 million visitors a year. Thousands of people attending Trump’s inauguration streamed by the museum Friday.
Linda St. Thomas, a Smithsonian Institution spokeswoman, said museum officials can vet only so many items before they go on sale at the Smithsonian’s various gift shops. She said she wasn’t sure whether the Trump book was fact-checked.
“I don’t know if we read all the books we sell. They will certainly take a look at this,” St. Thomas said. “We’re talking about thousands and thousands of items that come through, and some of them are geared for certain shops. This book has a very limited time period.”
On Saturday, after The Washington Post published this story, the museum tweeted: “The book is no longer available for sale in our shops pending a review by our historians for factual accuracy.”
The book was being sold alongside the usual array of inauguration tchotchkes and souvenirs: American flags, Trump postcards, navy blue inauguration T-shirts, and a far less partisan book on U.S. presidential trivia.
Despite the Trump book’s bent, its author said in an interview that he did not vote for the 70-year-old real estate mogul. Hall said he voted for the Green Party’s Jill Stein and described himself as a former supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Dennis Tucker, who runs Alabama-based Whitman Publishing, the publisher of the book, said his firm began churning out memory books about 10 years ago. He said Whitman produced a similar book on Obama in 2009, and another on his wife, Michelle. Others have focused on former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, President Ronald Reagan and pop star Michael Jackson.
Both men said that the book was geared toward Trump supporters, but they also said they had written a similar book about Clinton and would have published it if she had won the presidency. The publisher said it has sold “tens of thousands” of copies of the Trump book to its distributors and retailers.
“I am surprised that the book took off this way, but as far as it being in the Smithsonian, I am not surprised,” Hall said. “It’s inauguration. It makes sense it would be there” to appeal to Trump supporters.
Hall defended his passages dismissing the Russians’ involvement in the DNC hack, even though Trump himself acknowledged their role this month. (And only long after media reports and intelligence officials had made those findings clear.)
“There’s no evidence,” Hall said. “It’s all ‘top anonymous officials,’ and it sounds like the hysteria around weapons of mass destruction claims. Even when they released a report in January, they didn’t give any evidence.”
Hall was equally defensive in linking Clinton to birther claims about Obama. His book includes a copy of Obama’s birth certificate, underneath this account of the controversy:
“Hillary had successfully scapegoated Donald, her friend and a man who trusted her, in order to save herself from being eaten alive by her own party for her disgraceful campaign tactics. The media also pushed the lie that Donald was the one who initiated the ‘Birther Movement’ to further cover up Hillary’s treachery. . . .”
Obama, the book maintains, “eventually caved and released his long-form birth certificate to prove his citizenship. . . .”
Although Hall dwells on some controversies, he omits others. Mentions of Trump University, the Trump Foundation, and Trump’s Miss Universe involvement make no mention of allegations of wrongdoing that surfaced.
“I didn’t have enough space in the book,” Hall said. “It’s only 15,000 words, roughly.”
Hall and Tucker concede that the book is factually wrong when it says, “Hillary managed to attract some 200,000 more popular votes — not significant to affect the overall election.”
The reason for the gaffe? The publisher had to ship the manuscript off to its printer overseas a few days after the election.
“As of press, those were the numbers that we had,” Tucker said.
And where was the book printed? China.
“I imagine Trump would approve of it being China,” Tucker said. “He’s not reluctant to strike deals with China if it makes business sense. China has high-quality, affordable printing. And, they deliver quickly.”