- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The National Endowment for the Humanities has withdrawn its name from a fellowship for a professor facing accusations of research fraud over his book about the history of gun ownership in America.

Chicago's Newberry Library "was in error when it awarded an NEH-supported fellowship" to Emory University history professor Michael Bellesiles, NEH Deputy Chairman Lynne Munson wrote Monday in a letter to Newberry officials.

The library, Miss Munson wrote, awarded the fellowship in February 2001 despite "serious challenges to Professor Bellesiles' research" in his 2000 book, "Arming America," which claimed that gun ownership was rare in early America.

"Because the name of the National Endowment for the Humanities represents a standard that Professor Bellesiles' application [for the fellowship] did not meet, we are revoking the NEH's name from this fellowship," Miss Munson wrote to James Grossman, vice president for research and education at the Newberry Library. "Please remove from all Newberry materials, including your Web site, any association of Professor Bellesiles with the NEH."

Mary Lou Beatty, acting director of communications policy for the NEH, said that no federal funds were involved in the Bellesiles fellowship.

"Our money was never in that project," Ms. Beatty said.

She emphasized that the NEH dispute was with the grant process of the Newberry Library, an independent research library concentrating in the humanities.

"Essentially, our business is with the Newberry Library and whether they did due diligence in looking at the application for a grant," she said. "We had asked for some verifications from them about their process and the answers just weren't satisfactory."

Published to critical acclaim in October 2000, "Arming America" won the prestigious Bancroft Award and was embraced by advocates of gun control, who said his research contradicted the view that the Second Amendment was intended to protect private ownership of firearms.

But the book has come under increasing criticism from scholars who say that Mr. Bellesiles misrepresented or even fabricated historical records to support his contention that gun ownership was rare in the United States before the Civil War.

Among several inaccuracies cited by critics, Mr. Bellesiles asserted he had accessed California court records that experts say were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.

Ohio State University history professor Randolph Roth, writing in the latest issue of the scholarly William and Mary Quarterly, concluded that the assertions in "Arming America" are "not supported by the sources Mr. Bellesiles cites, the sources he does not cite, or by the data he presents."

Mr. Bellesiles has refused all media comment for months. He has responded to the charges only in an article in the William and Mary Quarterly in which he impugned the motives of his book's critics.

In February, Emory University in Atlanta announced an internal investigation into Mr. Bellesiles' research. Last month, the university said it had "concluded that further investigation would be warranted by an independent committee of distinguished scholars from outside Emory." That investigation is expected to be finished by September.

In her letter to the Newberry Library, Miss Munson wrote that "it is the Endowment's opinion that the Newberry's procedure for handling cases of research misconduct is flawed. The federal research misconduct policy calls for investigation and adjudication of fraudulent claims made not only in grant products, but also in applications for federal funds submitted to federal agencies and to their institutional grantees."

Mr. Grossman of the Newberry Library said in a telephone interview yesterday that he had just received Miss Munson's letter and could not comment on the controversy surrounding Mr. Bellesiles' work. "It's [the NEHs] prerogative to request that [its name be removed from the fellowship] and we will comply."

The Newberry Library will host a seminar next week in which Mr. Bellesiles will argue that "an invented tradition of heroism" surrounds the War of 1812.

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