Saturday, December 1, 2007

The New Republic Recants Libelous Beauchamp Story

I just finished reading The New Republic's recantation of its series of war stories by Scott Beauchamp.

I didn't follow the affair closely, but conservatives know that Beauchamp invented lurid stories of American troop behavior in Iraq. The right blogosphere and conservative publications such at the Weekly Standard hammered TNR for its antiwar bias and its refusal to repudiate Beauchamp's libelous tales.

Here's an excerpt from TNR's recantation:

Beauchamp's writings had originally appealed to us because we wanted to publish a soldier's introspections. We still believe in this journalistic mission, especially as the number of reporters embedded in Iraq dwindles. But, as these months of controversy have shown, telling the story of what is happening in Iraq through a soldier's eyes is a fraught project. The more we dug into Beauchamp's writings, the more clear it became that we might have been in the realm of war stories, a genre notoriously rife with embellishment....

For the past four-and-a-half months, we've been reluctant to retract Beauchamp's stories. Substantial evidence supports his account. It is difficult to imagine that he could enlist a conspiracy of soldiers to lie on his behalf. And they didn't just vouch for him - they added new details and admitted gaps in their own knowledge....

Beauchamp has lived through this ordeal under the most trying of conditions. He is facing pressures that we can only begin to imagine. And, over the course of our dealings with him, we've tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Ever since August, we've asked him, first though his wife and lawyer and later via direct e-mail and phone calls, to personally obtain the sworn statements that the military had him draft and sign on July 26. And, ever since then, he has promised repeatedly to do just that. We are, unfortunately, still waiting.

In retrospect, we never should have put Beauchamp in this situation. He was a young soldier in a war zone, an untried writer without journalistic training. We published his accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of anonymity - which, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not fabricate.

When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
This is the concluding section of the article. Again, I've only read tidbits of the story, but from my reading of the chronology here it appears that TNR threw journalistic credibility to the wind in reporting a far-fetched story of alleged U.S. troop depredations, obviously in an effort to further shift public opinion against the war.

The Confederate Yankee, a website at the center of the right blogosphere's campaign against TNR's perfidy, has a post at
its homepage and over at Pajamas Media. This is from the latter, which criticizes TNR editor, Franklin Foer:

Foer’s opus...attempts the impossible feat of justifying his editorial leadership at The New Republic from the lead up to the publication of Beauchamp’s work to the retraction above. Through it all, Franklin Foer has made it painfully apparent that he is incapable of admitting his own ethical and editorial shortcomings, and refuses to answer many of the key questions that still hang over The New Republic like a gallows....

The bottom line is that the Scott Beauchamp debacle was a test of editorial character for The New Republic under Franklin Foer’s leadership. For over four months, the magazine has answered that challenge by hiding behind anonymous sources, making personal attacks against critics, asserting a massive conspiracy against them, while covering up conflicting testimony and refusing to answer the hard questions.

Even to the end, Foer continues to blame everyone else for his continuing editorial failures, penning a fourteen-page excuse without a single, "I’m sorry."

The readers and staff deserve better, and it is past time for Franklin Foer to leave The New Republic.
I'll provide updates, and readers are asked to forward additional information or blog posts on the story. I'll append those here.

Hat tip: Little Green Footballs.


UPDATE: Currently on Memeorandum, no liberal bloggers - not one as of 10:15pm PST - have posted any comments or retractions regarding the Beauchamp affair.

On the other hand, see Jules Crittenden's piece, "P.S.: We Effed Up," and Michelle Malkin's doozy, "Bombshell…TNR ‘Fesses Up: The Beauchamp Stories Are Bullcrap."