Nonfiction writers who succumb to the temptations of phantom scholarship are a burgeoning breed these days, although most stop short of fabricating interviews with Presidents. But Stephen Ambrose, who, at the time of his death, in 2002, was America’s most famous and popular historian, appears to have done just that.
Plagiarism wasn’t enough, apparently he faked interviews with Dwight D. Eisenhower and used them for the rest of his life whenever he felt like making a point for which he had no evidence. I’m so proud we we went to the same grad program!
Here’s my Stephen Ambrose story: While I was in grad school at Wisconsin, he came back to his alma mater for a semester to teach World War II. I never talked to him, but I knew one of his teaching assistants. Apparently, he gave an entire lecture on trenchfoot and refused to acknowledge any Soviet contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Perhaps that’s why the History Department at Madison didn’t need to know that he was a plagiarist to never invite him back.