October 09, 2007
The New Republic Re-Interviewed Beauchamp... Over a Month Ago
For reasons as yet unknown, Memeorandum.com dredged up a Josh Marshall entry on Talking Points Memo from August 10 this past Sunday afternoon. Marshall cited a subscribers-only post by the editors of The New Republic released the same day, captured in its entirety by Google's cache.
It bears reading in full.
For several weeks now, questions have been raised about Scott Beauchamp's Baghdad Diarist "Shock Troops." While many of these questions have been formulated by people with ideological agendas, we recognize that there are legitimate concerns about journalistic accuracy. We at THE NEW REPUBLIC take these concerns extremely seriously. This is why we have sought to re-report the story, in the process speaking with five soldiers in Beauchamp's company who substantiate the events described in Beauchamp's essay.
Indeed, we continue to investigate the anecdotes recounted in the Baghdad Diarist. Unfortunately, our efforts have been severely hampered by the U.S. Army. Although the Army says it has investigated Beauchamp's article and has found it to be false, it has refused our--and others'--requests to share any information or evidence from its investigation. What's more, the Army has rejected our requests to speak to Beauchamp himself, on the grounds that it wants "to protect his privacy."
At the same time the military has stonewalled our efforts to get to the truth, it has leaked damaging information about Beauchamp to conservative bloggers. Earlier this week, The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb published a report, based on a single anonymous "military source close to the investigation," entitled "Beauchamp Recants, " claiming that Beauchamp "signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods--fabrications containing only 'a smidgen of truth,' in the words of our source. "
Here's what we know: On July 26, Beauchamp told us that he signed several statements under what he described as pressure from the Army. He told us that these statements did not contradict his articles. Moreover, on the same day he signed these statements for the Army, he gave us a statement standing behind his articles, which we published at tnr.com. Goldfarb has written, "It's pretty clear the New Republic is standing by a story that even the author does not stand by. " In fact, it is our understanding that Beauchamp continues to stand by his stories and insists that he has not recanted them. The Army, meanwhile, has refused our requests to see copies of the statements it obtained from Beauchamp--or even to publicly acknowledge that they exist.
Scott Beauchamp is currently a 23-year-old soldier in Iraq who, for the past 15 days, has been prevented by the military from communicating with the outside world, aside from three brief and closely monitored phone calls to family members. Our investigation has not thus far uncovered factual evidence (aside from one key detail) to discount his personal dispatches. And we cannot simply dismiss the corroborating accounts of the five soldiers with whom we spoke. (You can read our findings here.)
Part of our integrity as journalists includes standing by a writer who has been accused of wrongdoing and who is not able to defend himself. But we also want to reassure our readers that our obligations to our writer would never trump our commitment to the truth. We once again invite the Army to make public Beauchamp's statements and the details of its investigation--and we ask the Army to let us (or any other media outlet, for that matter) speak to Beauchamp. Unless and until these things happen, we cannot fairly assess any of these reports about Beauchamp--and therefore have no reason to change our own assessment of Beauchamp's work. If the truth ends up reflecting poorly on our judgment, we will accept responsibility for that. But we also refuse to rush to judgment on our writer or ourselves.
And how true that last line is, especially the part where they admit to not wanting to rush to judgment on themselves.
Tomorrow marks the two-month anniversary of this rather deceptive post, which also happens to be the last official word from Franklin Foer, Jason Zengerle, and the other editors and reporters of The New Republic intimately tied to what one media critic has already labeled as one of the top 101 incidents of media dishonesty.
It was clearly established that as an administrative action, that Beauchamp's statements were not legally releasable by the Army to the public. In short, to give his statements to the media without his permission would be illegal, something that TNR knew, or should have known, prior to accusing the Army of being deceptive.
That said, Beauchamp himself could have released these documents to the public, including the media, as soon as the investigation was over if he so desired back in August. He has not apparently seen fit to do so.
Beauchamp was free to speak to the media as early as August 6, four days before The New Republic said that they could still not contact him. On September 10, Pajamas Media published my exclusive interview with Major John Cross, who led the official U.S. Army investigation into the allegations made in "Shock Troops" and found that not a single soldier would corroborate any of Beauchamp's claims.
After re-reading the August 10 statement by the editors of The New Republic, I contacted Major Kirk Luedeke, PAO for Forward Operating Base Falcon where Beauchamp is stationed, and asked him several questions in hopes of updating the story thus far.
The answers seem to indicate that Franklin Foer, Jason Zengerle and the editors of The New Republic have indeed been pursuing their incestuous relationship with Scott Beauchamp further; they've just refused thus far to publish any of the answers they've obtained, for reasons yet unknown.
The interview discussed comments made in the August 10 TNR article cited above, and asked about developments since :
Q: At that time [August 10], the editors of TNR claimed that there were "five soldiers in Beauchamp's company who substantiate the events described in Beauchamp's essay." Have the editors of TNR made any requests to interview soldiers in Beauchamp' s unit, identified of them, or made any attempts to find out about their credibility?
A: Other than requesting and receiving interviews with Pvt. Scott Beauchamp and Maj. John Cross in September, TNR has not asked to speak to any additional Soldiers in the 1-18th Infantry Battalion through the 4th brigade public affairs channels.
Q: At that time, the editors of TNR claimed that, "the Army says it has investigated Beauchamp's article and has found it to be false, it has refused our--and others'--requests to share any information or evidence from its investigation." At the time those statements were made by TNR's editors on August 10, were they factually accurate? Since that time, have the editors of The New Republic spoken with anyone who would have, "information or evidence from its investigation, " such as Major Cross, the investigating officer I interviewed a month ago on September 10?
A: 4th brigade public affairs Soldiers were present for separate interviews conducted between TNR and Pvt. Beauchamp and Maj. Cross.
On Aug. 10, the Army was still in the process conducting an investigation into the possible violation of Operational Security by Pvt. Beauchamp, and therefore, he was not at liberty to conduct interviews pending the outcome of the active investigation. He was, however, able to communicate with his family during that time.
The interviews with Beauchamp and Maj. Cross occurred in the first two weeks of September, and to my knowledge, are the only ones conducted through official channels between TNR and any member of the Vanguard Battalion.
Q: TNR also claimed that, "the Army has rejected our requests to speak to Beauchamp himself, on the grounds that it wants 'to protect his privacy.'" At the time those statements were made by TNR's editors on August 10, were they factually accurate? To your knowledge, have the editors of The New Republic spoken with Scott Thomas Beauchamp since August 10, and if so, when? Does Scott Beauchamp currently have the capability to speak to The New Republic if he so desires, and release all documentation relating to the investigation if he so desires?
A: The statements made by TNR on Aug. 10 about Beauchamp's availability were accurate- given the investigation's status, he was not authorized to conduct interviews with media outlets. However, as soon as the investigation concluded in mid-August, he was free to speak openly if he so desired. He rejected interview requests from Confederate Yankee and the Weekly Standard, but did in fact speak to TNR on the 7th of September, while Maj. John Cross conducted a separate interview with TNR roughly one week later.
Pvt. Beauchamp also canceled scheduled interviews with Newsweek and the Washington Post after speaking to TNR.
TNR interviewed Scott Thomas Beauchamp over a month ago. TNR interviewed investigating officer Major John Cross after I interviewed him for Pajamas Media roughly a week later.
At this stage of the game, one must wonder how much longer Franklin Foer, Jason Zengerle, and the other TNR editors involved in this farcical investigation can continue to hide the obvious fact that this was a series of stories that has not been corroborated, are partially or entirely fictional in nature, and poorly (or never) fact-checked, probably because of the author's relationship with a TNR staffer that he later married.
One must begin to wonder just how ethical Editor-In-Chief Martin Peretz and Executive Editor J. Peter Scoblic are in not reacting to the obvious facts that key elements of the stories written by Scott Beauchamp were not fact checked, and that Franklin Foer and Jason Zengerle are running what appears to be a purposefully deceptive investigation to cover up the lack of fact-checking prior to publication, while apparently lying to readers, experts, critics, and perhaps even their own employers at TNR and CanWest Mediaworks.
I'd love to know what Scott Thomas and Major Cross had to say to TNR, but The New Republic seems content to continue to answer questions about their credibility and ethics with silence.