September 18, 2007

Two Months In: Franklin Foer, Will You Honor Your Word?

Two months ago today, Michael Goldfarb challenged the Scott Thomas story "Shock Troops" posted in the New Republic, igniting a firestorm of criticism by military personnel and bloggers who found the published claims to be less than credible.

In response to growing doubts from critics and his own readers, Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic, stated on July 20:

I've spoken extensively with the author of the piece and have communicated with other soldiers who witnessed the events described in the diarist. Thus far, these conversations have done nothing to undermine--and much to corroborate--the author's descriptions. I will let you know more after we complete our investigation."

Now, almost two months after making that promise and precisely two months after the story was first questioned, Foer has yet to announce the findings of that investigation.

We know that Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the author of the three stories Foer ran in The New Republic, had a chance to speak with The New Republic 12 days ago. We also know that Beauchamp has refused to discuss his original claims with any other media organization, and gave a blanket statement to the PAO to relay to media organizations that he will not discuss the incidents in his stories, period. It appears that Beauchamp will not speak to Franklin Foer any more about these articles, and that he may have frozen him out, perhaps upon the direction of a lawyer.

Foer now knows, or should know, whether or not Beauchamp will stand by his earlier claims.

If he can provide further support for Shock Troops and the two previous articles, Foer needs to produce it. If he cannot, Franklin Foer owes it to his readers to retract all three of Scott Beauchamp's stories, which a military investigation revealed to be completely uncorroborated, and portions of which one of the magazine's own experts found "highly unlikely."

To date, Franklin Foer, Jason Zengerle, and the rest of The New Republic have been unable to provide so much as a single named expert, a single named witness, or a single concrete fact to support the claims made in "Shock Troops."

I call upon Franklin Foer to honor his word: present the findings of TNR's investigation.

If you will not, resign.

Update: Lessons unlearned:

The High and Mighty Just after Baghdad fell in early 2003, CNN ran an astonishing confession on the New York Times’s op-ed page admitting that it had known, but kept secret, some “awful things” about the regime of Saddam Hussein over the years. “Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard—awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff,” wrote Eason Jordan, CNN’s chief news executive. “I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed.” The piece went into some gruesome detail of atrocities CNN “could not report,” for fear of reprisal from the dictator. “I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me,” he confessed.

Then why didn’t CNN leave Iraq and alert the rest of the world about these “gut-wrenching tales” and atrocities?

For a couple of weeks, other mainstream media reported moral outrage. The New Republic's Franklin Foer shot back that this couldn't even be called a belated outbreak of honesty. "If it were, Mr. Jordan would be portraying CNN as Saddam's victim. He'd be apologizing for its cooperation with Iraq's erstwhile information ministry—and admitting that CNN policy hinders truthful coverage of dictatorships." CNN was, Foer stated, the network of record. "It makes rich reading to return to transcripts and compare the CNN version of Iraq with the reality that has emerged."

The lesson never quite sank in.


Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 18, 2007 09:59 AM

Why not go for the full monty honor-wise and do both?

Posted by: Dean Barnett at September 18, 2007 05:03 PM

Dean Barnett

Because that would require morals and ethics, something obviously lacking at The New Republic.

Posted by: doriangrey at September 18, 2007 06:31 PM

Sadly it becomes more and more obvious with every passing day and scandal that EVERYONE who is a "democrat," "liberal" or "progressive" is just a filthy liar. I have many, many lib pals here in Oregon and, alas, I view them all as the worthless filth that Foer et al have proven to be. As Mark Levine says, we ARE in the midst of a culture war and these horrid, lying, miserable scum are the enemy. Sad.

Posted by: vetter at September 18, 2007 06:32 PM

It looks like TNR is winning the game. All Franklin Foer has to do is sit tight, keep quiet, and all this will continue to fade away.

Posted by: John at September 18, 2007 06:32 PM

I'm afraid John is right. Who's on the case? In time even CY will probably move on to another more important scandal.

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at September 18, 2007 07:28 PM

But, the next time TNR publishes something fantabulous, watch how quickly this gets brought up again.

They may think they can avoid it, but like on so many other issues, they are dead wrong.

Posted by: C-C-G at September 18, 2007 07:31 PM
I'm afraid John is right. Who's on the case? In time even CY will probably move on to another more important scandal.

Don't count on this story being remotely close to being closed.

In fact, it is just getting interesting.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at September 18, 2007 07:39 PM

There ya go, CY, showing us some leg again - you got a time frame on the next big reveal?

Even if not a word more on this story was published, TNR's reputation has been severely damaged - and that goes for every writer, editor, staffer, and alumnus who swims in the little pond of professional political intellectuals.

They may think they can front the scandal off for a while, but the bad odor never goes away. Sooner or later, it will affect the bottom line, if it hasn't already - or make it more difficult for the publisher to justify continuing to lose money on their no longer so prestigious "prestige" holding.

Posted by: CK MacLeod at September 18, 2007 09:11 PM

C'mon, Foer just wants this whole thing to go away. He's waiting for the day when Elspeth tells him he can come out from under his desk. I've been keeping an eye on this too, ever since I got a response from his 1SG and the PAO in his unit. TNR doesn't want to admit it got punked by a problem child.

Posted by: SFCMAC at September 19, 2007 09:19 AM


Frankly I think this low-key nonsense will continue up until Beauchamp gets separated and discharged. Then we'll see that twit come out and proclaim that he was telling the truth all along but was strong-armed by the military and right wing blogs. Whereupon Foer will start braying like a jackass and hoping that new meme will somehow overcome the reality.

No doubt they'll fall on their faces yet again when that happens.

Posted by: memomachine at September 19, 2007 09:28 AM

I noticed Ellie hasn't written anything for TNR since June despite having an active Spring.

Hmmmmm....I wonder why.

Posted by: Sean Bannion at September 19, 2007 11:11 AM

I like Dean's idea--Foer both come clean and resign. I don't see how TNR can lay claim to a shred of credibility while Foer's at the helm.

Posted by: Nathan Tabor at September 20, 2007 12:31 AM