Alexander McDuffie, a Texas-based antiquities dealer, and Joseph Musso, an artist and historian, are suing the authors of a book about the Alamo for allegedly suggesting that they faked artifacts and inflated their prices.
The authors of Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth are Bryan Burrough, a reporter for Vanity Fair; Chris Tomlinson, a columnist for the Houston Chronicle; and Jason Stanford, a political consultant and communications officer. Penguin Random House and the newspaper Texas Monthly have also been named as defendants.
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Forget the Alamo is about the origins of the legend of the Battle of the Alamo, the ways in which the story was modified and twisted during the Jim Crow era, and how revisionists have been trying to set the record straight on the actual events concerning this Texan origin myth.
“The Plaintiffs in this case made one mistake: they trusted a reporter who came to them asking about a subject on which they have a good deal of passion and expertise: authenticating artifacts that might have a connection to the Texas Revolution and the Battle of the Alamo,” reads the complaint. “Although that reporter promised that he would quit the project before he would allow his coauthors to say anything negative about the Plaintiffs or their work, the book that was ultimately published … contained false statements, mischaracterizations, and significant omissions.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Melynda Nuss, said that she and her clients were currently unable to comment.
In the course of the book, the authors included a section on memorabilia from the battle, and this is where McDuffie and Musso came in as resident experts on artifacts from that era.
The book came out June 8, 2021. Prior to the book’s publication, Texas Monthly published an excerpt that came with the headline “Come and Fake It?” when it appeared in print. McDuffie allegedly filed requests for corrections with Dan Goodgame, the editor of the story, but the lawsuit says that McDuffie was unsatisfied with the corrections Goodgame was willing to make. The article was eventually updated to include many corrections.
The book and the article allegedly suggested that McDuffie may have added an inscription to a knife that could have belonged to William Barrett Travis, a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army, and that he had a strong relationship with Alfred Van Fossen, an antiquities dealer with a reputation for selling questionable artifacts.
“In fact,” the complaint says “Van Fossen ended their relationship by stealing a painting from McDuffie and selling it.”
Dan Goodgame, the editor at Texas Monthly, believes they made sufficient corrections.
“Before publishing an extensive excerpt from a new book, Forget the Alamo, Texas Monthly carefully checked the facts in that excerpt,” wrote Goodgame in an emailed statement. “After we published it, Alex McDuffie and Joseph Musso told us of several passages that they considered inaccurate or unfair. After further research, we corrected a few factual errors in the excerpt and allowed the plaintiffs to voice more of their views on other issues in dispute. We conducted our work carefully and fairly, and we intend to make that case in court.”
The complaint alleges that the book greatly harmed McDuffie’s business. According to the suit, McDuffie made $150,000 per year before the book came out. In the year after its publication, he made $98,000.
Musso is not a dealer and thus has has not faced damages to any business, but the suit claims that his character has come into question as a result of the excerpt.