August 20, 2007


At Pajamas Media this morning, Richard Miniter has posted a devastating article called How The New Republic Got Suckered. It is the most incisive look into the heart of The New Republic during the early days of the Scott Thomas Beauchamp scandal thus far.

Miniter draws heavily from former TNR assistant to the editor Robert McGee, who recounts his experiences inside The New Republic before being terminated and then slapped with a cease and desist order by the magazine's lawyers for revealing that Beauchamp was married to a TNR fact-checker and writer, Elspeth Reeve.

It is because of this relationship that I suspect Franklin Foer and other TNR editors failed to adequately fact-check Beauchamp's three articles. What still remains unanswered is if Reeve was the fact-checker on her husband's stories, as such a conflict of interest would be yet another violation of journalistic ethics.

Also telling, if accurate, is McGee's observation that Foer may have approached, and may still be approaching, the scandal with ideological blinders firmly in place.

Later that night, Robert McGee, a then-assistant to The New Republic's publisher, went looking for the host. He is curious what Foer thinks about the building scandal. He wants the inside dope.

He finds Foer on the front porch and asks as casually as he can: "So, what's up with this?"

As McGee recalls the conversation, Foer immediately volunteered the standard answer: conservatives have an ideological grudge to settle because they perceive the magazine to be anti-war, anti-military and so on.

"He sounded almost rehearsed," McGee said.

What bothered McGee about the conversation was that Foer saw the questions from the bloggers as a completely ideological attack. "Foer wasn't acknowledging that at least some of the attacks on the [Beauchamp's] 'Shock Troops' piece came from active-duty military members whose skepticism was factually grounded, and not just from stateside political pundits."

Discounting criticism merely as a result of the ideological position of the critics was a serious mistake by Foer, though hardly the first, and certainly not the last.

Just because political pundits made these observations does not make them invalid. It matters little who tells you that Glocks do not fire "square-backed" bullets; this fact does not change if it comes from a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat.

Nor does it matter that it was this conservative blogger blew away TNR's insistence that they fact-checked Beauchamp's claims before publication by pointing out that if TNR has run so much as a Google search before publishing Beauchamp's libelous murder claim in “Dark of Night," then he would have likely been exposed as a fabulist well in advanced of "Shock Troops."

Time and again, it seems, Franklin Foer and perhaps other senior TNR editors allowed personal loyalties to subvert their editorial responsibilities.

In the beginning, these were small sins.

One wants to be able to trust the spouse of a staffer. I can understand why the fact-checking that should have occurred may have been minimized in Beauchamp's first post.

But in "Dead of Night," Beauchamp makes significant fact errors in leveling an accusation of murder. Personal relationships should matter little when an author makes such an inflammatory charge, and the editor's have a significant duty to verify that the facts support such a potentially divisive claim.

It is painfully obvious that even a passing attempt to verify the claims was never made. No handgun on the planet fires a "square-backed" pistol bullet, and if the editors had so much as bothered to click on the Glock web site, they would have readily discovered that Glocks use the same ammunition as every other 9x19mm caliber pistol, and that this claim was absurd.

Further, the editors of The New Republic made absolutely no attempt to verify the demonstrably false Beauchamp claim that "the only people who use Glocks are the Iraqi police."

This fabrication is easily discredited within seconds with a simple Google search.

Glocks are a common and favored handgun on the Iraqi black market:

Glock pistols were also easy to find. One young Iraqi man, Rebwar Mustafa, showed a Glock 19 he had bought at the bazaar in Kirkuk last year for $900. Five of his friends have bought identical models, he said.

There are literally dozens of stories of Glock pistols being recovered from insurgents, terrorists, and militiamen. They have been captured in cordon-and-search operations, in targeted raids, recovered in weapons caches, and taken from dead and wounded insurgents, militiamen, and criminals.

American soldiers also have them, as do civilian contractors. Ordinary Iraqi civilians (men and women) buy them to protect their families. Glock are quite likely the most ubiquitous handgun in Iraq, carried officially or unofficially by those on all sides, and those on no side at all.

But Franklin Foer's editors did not fact check any part of the murder claim made in "Dead of Night." That is clear, and in doing so, the editors' of The New Republic slipped from being loyal friends making an innocent mistake, into what can only be described as an overt case of editorial malpractice.

Had the editors of The New Republic actually edited this article and fact-checked it before publication, there is every reason to believe that these significant fact errors in "Dark of Night" would have eventually led to the quiet termination of Scott Thomas Beauchamp's writing career at The New Republic after one article.

But Franklin Foer and the other editors at The New Republic utterly failed in their editorial responsibilities.

Instead, the willful disregard of editorial standards allowed Beauchamp not only to libelously assign a murder based upon false claims, it also allowed him to later publish his most infamous post, "Shock Troops," in which he wrote three vignettes that effectively slandered every soldier in his entire company and within the other companies with which his unit served.

But this editorial dereliction of duty was by no means the greatest sin of the editors of The New Republic.

Once caught, they escalated their editorial incompetence with a series of readily apparent purposeful deceptions, dissembling to readers and critics alike.

Franklin Foer stated that The New Republic fact-checked "Shock Troops" before publication. That statement is an obvious falsehood. Foer's magazine utterly failed to fact-check the article prior to publication, and therefore had to move the time, location and underlying premise of Beauchamp's primary charge to another time and country when they did finally attempt to fact-check it well after publication.

Foer's editors attempted to further deceive readers and critics on at least two other known occasions.

The New Republic claimed to publish the findings of an internal investigation that they said vindicated the magazine, but was in actuality nothing more than an apparent attempt to save their jobs via a whitewash.

The magazine offered no named witnesses or experts, no evidence or testimony, and when one of the experts TNR claimed to have supported their story was located, it became abundantly obvious that TNR avoided a real investigation, did not provide him with any context, and was attempted to only provide itself with rhetorical cover. The attempt failed, miserably.

The magazine has also apparently made it a practice to bury dissenting viewpoints, such as when a military PAO based in Kuwait told TNR editor Jason Zengerle that the story was regarded as an urban legend or myth. Zengerle acknowledges he was told this, but the account was never published in The New Republic.

Foer's magazine then attempted to avoid responsibility for their editorial malpractice, purposeful deception, and account burying by blaming the Army, claiming that the Army was obstructing their investigation.

But the Army never obstructed any investigation by The New Republic. This is presumably fine, as The New Republic had no intention of really conducting one.

But now we are left with a magazine where the editors have moved beyond merely partisanship and incompetence to obvious willful deception of their readers and critics alike, and perhaps actionable fraud.

It remains to be seen how CanWest Mediaworks, owner of The New Republic and other media properties, will respond.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 20, 2007 10:02 AM

Hey FYI:

Looks like we have a whole slew of Beauchamps. perhaps an in-depth look into how the NY Times was suckered in by these alleged "soldiers" is in order.

Most likely they are Al-Quaeda plants who joined the military with the sole purpose of collaborating on this op-ed. I suggest you spend the next several months thoroughly investigating their personal lives.

Posted by: over_educated at August 20, 2007 11:30 AM

If Reeve was the fact checker, it looks like she was used/deceived twice by Beauchamp, as he started dating her while still engaged to someone else. Here's the timeline.

It's almost enough to feel sorry for her.

Posted by: steve sturm at August 20, 2007 11:33 AM

Yes, Beauchamp's articles may contain some untruths. They might be total fiction.

But it doesn't matter, does it? Because they sound plausible - everyone of us knows how ugly war is and how ugly it makes us.

Or has everyone forgotten Abu Ghraib?

Try all you want to wash this dirt off. It doesn't matter that you think you look clean - it's what the rest of the world thinks that really matters.

Posted by: Mad as Hell at August 20, 2007 11:43 AM

So Overeducated believes Beauchamp's vignettes are true because other soldiers write accurately about their experiences in Iraq?
Hmmm, clearly Overeducated is not over educated about the meaning of non-sequitur .

Posted by: Diggs at August 20, 2007 11:45 AM

"'s what the rest of the world thinks that really matters."
Boy, that's the Left's whole philosophy on foreign policy in 11 short words, isn't it?
And I thought Obama was naive.

Posted by: Diggs at August 20, 2007 11:50 AM

Re: the NY times link above: There's a significant difference between calling one soldier a liar and then proving it (which is what the Beauchamp affair is all about), and attacking the opinions of a handful of other soldiers, which is demonstrably not what is happening here.

Posted by: steevus at August 20, 2007 11:57 AM

Steve Sturm - I noticed the same thing about the timeline. What's unclear is just how involved were Scott and Elspeth in January when TNR published his first diary. Did he find his way to TNR without her only to have a relationship rekindled (kindled?) with an old college chum? Seems unlikely. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but considering they were apparently not an item in college or at the time of the first publication, perhaps Elspeth was really the catalyst for the whole thing. [dream scenario - "Hey Franklin, I know this guy from college who's going to Iraq and hates the war. Want me to get him to write some 'war is bad' stuff for us?"] Who can blame a wanna-be writer for falling instantly in love with the woman who gave him his first real gig. And perhaps the only reason she said "yes" to marriage was to keep the stories coming. OK, that last part is a bit far-fetched, but it's something to think about.

Posted by: mattb at August 20, 2007 12:23 PM

Over-educated says "Looks like we have a whole slew of Beauchamps."

I read the article and I didn't find a single reference to American soldiers engaging in morally repugnant activities for the amusement of themselves and their buddies. In fact, at the end of the article the authors clearly state that morale is not the issue. They have presented a well reasoned criticism of the current policy and a concern about the long term prospects for US military involvement in Iraq. Of course, General Petraeus has a different view, and has well reasoned arguments in favor of the current policy.

None of us knows for certain what the ultimate outcome will be of either approach, yet we must make a choice and deal with the consequences that follow. Reasonable people are going to disagree, but even when they disagree, those who are committed to serving the nation will complete the mission given to them to the best of their ability, as the authors of the article made clear. Those who serve only themselves don't offer reasoned dissent- they just slime the people they disagree with.

Posted by: JeanE at August 20, 2007 12:25 PM

Gene Kelly directed a comedy in the mid-60s: "A Guide for the Married Man." In a series of blackout sketches, Robert Morse teaches Walter Matthau how to cheat on his wife.

One scene featured Joey Bishop and a beautiful young woman caught together in bed by his wife. While his wife raves on about his infidelity, Bishop pulls on his pants asks and asks, "What woman? What on earth are you talking about?" Meanwhile the girl is in the same room, calmly getting out of bed, dressing, and finally walking out the door.

While the wife babbles about his obvious infidelity, Bishop calmly collects himself and denies everything, telling his wife, "What are you talking about? There is no woman."

Soon the girl is gone, Bishop is sitting fully dressed in his easy chair, steadfastly denying that anything has happened. Eventually his wife doubts she ever saw anything. In the end she apologizes and begins to make dinner.

That's TNR's strategy in a nutshell.

Posted by: Ripper at August 20, 2007 12:30 PM

It isn't actionable fraud. I guess the scenario would be this:

Hey, I paid $5 for your magazine (or maybe some library or other institution paid more for many copies), only because I reasonably relied upon your representation that you take care to tell the truth. Thus, because there's:

1) False representation,
2) Inducing,
3) Actual and Reasonable reliance,
4) Causing
5) Damages ($5)

TNR committed fraud.

Looks like the elements are met, however:

a) Was the reliance reasonable, when we know ideological magazines can be careless?


b) More importantly, we know to a certainty that the court would uphold a 1st Amendment defense for ideological magazines and even strait general news reporting, else TRN, NRO, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. would all be defending innumerable claims overnight, thus the "chilling effect," blah, blah, blah.

(For reporting of some discrete and objective information, e.g., stock prices, a First Amendment defense would not be dispositive.)

I've often thought I'd like to purchase a copy of the NYTimes just to sue them for fraud, but it wouldn't work (even if it would, I'd be the wrong plaintiff in a fraud case because I know they're lying.)

Good work on the TNR case.

Posted by: at August 20, 2007 12:32 PM

"Yes, Beauchamp's articles may contain some untruths. They might be total fiction."

They are certainly total fiction. Otherwise the New Republic staff would have uncovered and publicized corroborating evidence by now. The location of the mass grave. The burned woman herself, coming forward to denounce those who heckled her. Photos showing Bradleys damaged by the kind of reckless driving Beauchamp described, or repair records proving that the damage occurred. Eyewitnesses to the events (according to Beauchamp, there were dozens at least). The names of the soldiers who committed crimes -- Beauchamp served with them, so he must know who they are, right?

TNR has provided none of this evidence, because it does not exist. It does not exist because the events described in Beauchamp's account never happened.

"But it doesn't matter, does it?"

I don't know. Why don't you ask them TNR editors whether it matters to them? "Do you care whether the articles you publish are fact or fiction?" Let us know what they say. While you're at it, ask the TNR subscribers if it matters to them. I'm guessing that it does.

Posted by: Pat at August 20, 2007 12:54 PM

"Yes, Beauchamp's articles may contain some untruths. They might be total fiction.

But it doesn't matter, does it?"

Mad [as in Insane] as Hell: Doesn't that sound like Evan Thomas' lame excuse for Newsweak when the Duke Lacrosse stripper-lies surfaced?

"The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong."

CA-RAAAZY-as-Hell is what you are, or else you're just the average CSJ graduate---cheating on your ethics exam.

Posted by: daveinboca at August 20, 2007 12:59 PM

"Or has everyone forgotten Abu Ghraib?"

I haven't forgotten it. I also haven't forgotten the wedding of Charles and Diana, or the space shuttle Challenger's destruction, or the famous Apple "1984" commercial. But I don't see how any of these things are relevant to the subject at hand, which is the editorial malfeasance of The New Republic. How is Abu Ghraib connected to that? Please explain it to us.

Posted by: Pat at August 20, 2007 01:01 PM

BTW, anyone who doesn't think Foer should be s***-canned for this absurd eff-up, puh-leeze tell us why.

One strike, you're out, on something the magnitude of this grotesque fakery.

Posted by: daveinboca at August 20, 2007 01:01 PM

"Who can blame a wanna-be writer for falling instantly in love with the woman who gave him his first real gig?"

I can, if he was already engaged to someone else at the time.

Posted by: Pat at August 20, 2007 01:09 PM

"Yes, Beauchamp's articles may contain some untruths. They might be total fiction.

But it doesn't matter, does it? Because they sound plausible - everyone of us knows how ugly war is and how ugly it makes us."

I think the proper translation of this is "Stereotypes are reasonable if I am the one doing the stereotyping. If you use stereotypes, it's because you're a a bigot."

Posted by: Anon at August 20, 2007 01:29 PM

According to Miniter's article, McGee can't respond to his critics because of a "cease and desist" order TNR obtained against him. You can't just get a judge to tell somebody to shut up without some underlying legal claim on which to base such an injunction. What is the nature of the pending litigation? Does anybody know? It must be very interesting.

Posted by: Jim O'Sullivan at August 20, 2007 01:30 PM

I'd guess that the cease & desist order is related to some sort of non-disclosure agreement that McGee had to sign at the time of accepting employment at TNR

Posted by: Bret at August 20, 2007 01:43 PM


I agree, I thought liberals love "whistleblowers." In fact aren't "whistleblowers" protected by law?

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at August 20, 2007 01:48 PM

Bret and Capitalist Infidel:
Yeah, on further reflection,that's probably it. Interesting, though, that TNR makes people sign one. Whistleblowers are great,except when they're in your midst. I wonder how common they are in the business. And how restrictive they are in general, and how restrictive TNR's is.

Posted by: Jim O'Sullivan at August 20, 2007 02:39 PM

Re the infamous "square-backed" bullet: I always suspected that STB had originally written something about the mark of the Glock square-faced striker but that TNR editors "corrected" it because they didn't understand what he was saying.

Posted by: submandave at August 20, 2007 04:01 PM

Mad as Hell trots out the "fake, but accurate" defense! Of course! The only thing that really matters is "TRVTH," right?

Infidel: Whistleblower acts typically only protect those who object to or refuse to participate in illegal conduct.

Posted by: SWLiP at August 20, 2007 05:08 PM

Interview with a lefty.

"What do you think of Beauchamp's article being debunked?"

"Abu Ghraib!"

"How about General Petraeus's success?"

"Abu Ghraib!"

"Army medics and doctors providing much-needed healthcare to Iraqis?"

"Abu Ghraib!"

Posted by: C-C-G at August 20, 2007 09:38 PM

To Mad as Hell:

The Gulag!

Wow - I really do like that form of argument. Neat, efficient, and best of all - effortless!

Let's try one more.

Mao's Great Leap Forward!

So refreshing.

Jack Straw

Posted by: Jack Straw at August 20, 2007 10:54 PM

This sounds just like the incessant lefty criticism of Bush: "He's a cowboy." "He didn't wait for all the facts, he had his mind made up to attack Iraq before he argued the cases against Saddam." "He won't admit (what the left believes to be) mistakes." It'd be interresting to go through TNR and see how many of those type of articles they have published.

Posted by: brainy435 at August 21, 2007 08:27 AM



TNR still on vacation?

That's some serious vacation. Perhaps they occasionally dabble in quasi-journalism as a welcome break between vacations?

Posted by: memomachine at August 21, 2007 10:43 AM

With all due respect to Mike Goldfarb (and plenty is due), if it hadn't been for the extraordinary journalism of Confederate Yankee and Ace of Spades HQ, TNR would have been able to frame this affair as an ideological dispute between competitors. TWS played an important role, but CY and AOSHQ did the heavy lifting. Y'all need to take a bow--because unlike TNR, y'all can stand by your story and sleep at night, too.

Salut, gentlemen.

Posted by: Dave at August 21, 2007 12:06 PM

Jack Straw, I have a better one.


Hey, that was fun!

Posted by: C-C-G at August 21, 2007 11:34 PM

To Mad as Hell,

"But it doesn't matter, does it? Because they sound plausible - everyone of us knows how ugly war is and how ugly it makes us.

Ok. Shut up. This idiot Beauchamp had to make stuff up to make it look worse than it is. He went to war hoping to return home with the movie-riffic "thousand yard stare" so he could scare hell out of the ladies and have the awe of his buddies.

And even more telling is that these petty offenses are the worst he could dream up. Seems much more antiseptic compared to trench warfare in WWI, doncha think?

Posted by: y7 at August 22, 2007 05:13 AM

...everyone of us knows how ugly war is and how ugly it makes us.

Sorry - never been to a war so I know no such thing. I'd speculate, however, that this particular war is large and complicated (you know...nuanced) and there's more to the story than just ugliness. Some people just aren't interested, though.

Posted by: Ted at August 22, 2007 11:19 AM