Patterico's Pontifications

10/29/2007

Five Factual Errors in Tim Rutten’s Beauchamp Column

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 5:53 pm

Let’s play “Count the factual inaccuracies in a Tim Rutten column!”

The other day I detailed two factual inaccuracies in Tim Rutten’s recent column on the Beauchamp affair:

  • Rutten said:

    A report in the Weekly Standard alleged that, as part of the Army investigation, the private also had signed a statement totally disavowing his piece. When the New Republic inquired about such a statement, an Army spokesman denied it existed.

    Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.

    False. The Army spokesman denied the existence of the statement on August 7. Since then, the magazine has communicated with Beauchamp at least three times.

  • “Regarding Beauchamp’s “Pre Traumatic Stress Disorder” tale of mocking a disfigured woman, Rutten wrote that “the magazine determined that the incident involving the disfigured woman was concocted and corrected that . . .”

    False.

    Although the story may well have been “concocted,” the magazine has never admitted that. Rather, the magazine admitted only that the incident took place in Kuwait, and not Iraq. Although that fact undercut the entire point of the story, the magazine never said that the story was a fabrication. Rather, they called it an “error.”

Two factual inaccuracies! I wrote about the first in an e-mail to the Readers’ Representative. (More about her response later.)

Later that day, Bob Owens noted the second of the two inaccuracies above, and pointed out two more:

  • Rutten wrote: “He described the ridicule of a disfigured Iraqi woman . . .”

    False.

    As Bob points out, the woman has never been described as Iraqi. Beauchamp said in the piece that he “couldn’t really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor.” So even if this had taken place in Iraq, one would assume that she was American. [UPDATE: Or at least a Westerner, as opposed to an Iraqi.] But, as stated above, if the incident took place at all, it took place in Kuwait. There is no reason for Rutten to believe that the woman was Iraqi — unless he sort of skimmed over Beauchamp’s piece, and paid no attention whatsoever to the magazine’s correction or its significance.

  • Rutten said: “He described . . . attempts to run over stray dogs with Bradley fighting vehicles . . .”

    False.

    As Bob notes, “Nor were the claims in the Bradley stories described as mere attempt[s]; there were three successful and grisly killings alleged by the author.” Indeed, the piece said: “One particular day, he killed three dogs.” You can read the entire relevant quote excerpted here. And Michael Combs has more detail here.

That’s four factual inaccuracies!

But wait! There’s more! Michael Goldfarb noted yet another factual inaccuracy:

  • Rutten said:

    It was interesting to note that Drudge provided links to the transcripts and report but not to the purported “Memorandum for Record.” . . . Since there was no link to the purported memorandum, we must take its existence on faith.

    False.

    Actually, the Memorandum for Record was included among the documents posted by Drudge, and is still readable at many of the various sites that copied and reposted the documents. For one example, click here and scroll to the last two pages. The Memorandum of Concern is the second to last page. The Memorandum for Record, acknowledging receipt of the Memorandum of Concern, is the last page.

    Yet Rutten still professes to doubt whether the document even exists:

    (In fact, signing such a document — if it exists — is not an admission of guilt, but merely an acknowledgment that the person under investigation has been shown the contents.)

    “If it exists”??

Five factual inaccuracies!

This is a stupendously embarrassing performance by Rutten, and demands pressure on the paper.

I’m happy to provide it.

The Readers’ Representative has responded to my inquiry regarding Factual Inaccuracy #1, with a rather obtuse e-mail that purported not to understand my complaint. I plan to respond with an e-mail that not only clarifies my (already clear) point, but that also lists the other four inaccuracies.

Naturally, all correspondence will be set forth in a future post or posts.

This is going to be the Mother of All Corrections — assuming the paper is honest about its desire to correct misstatements.

We’ll see.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mickey for the link. Readers coming in to this post might be interested in another post that considers whether Rutten violated the L.A. Times Code of Ethics by publishing self-serving statements from The New Republic personnel. Also, I have written a proposed correction for the L.A. Times. If you enjoy these posts, I hope you will consider bookmarking the main page and returning in the future.

48 Responses to “Five Factual Errors in Tim Rutten’s Beauchamp Column”

  1. Like I said before Pat, I’m willing to give Rutten the benefit of the doubt, so this piece is sloppy reporting and sloppy editing.

    Paul (66339f)

  2. The proof will be in whether they issue corrections for all five of the above errors.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  3. Who will issue the first correction (if at all): TNR or LAT?

    aunursa (0661a4)

  4. Yup, for me the jury is still out on this.

    Paul (66339f)

  5. Why, Paul? Each of the errors favor The New Republic by making the Beauchamp story look like a tempest in a teapot. If this was just sloppiness, doesn’t it seem like one or two errors might have gone the other way?

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  6. Possibly, DRJ. If he wrote it without doing any research, it shows his biases. That said, it would also show he wasn’t doing his job researching and gathering facts.

    As Pat said, the proof is if the LAT publishes the corrections.

    Paul (66339f)

  7. I doubt they’ll correct the first “error.”

    Talk about a bad faith misreading of what Rutten actually wrote.

    As for saying the disfigured woman was American…haha, correction coming on that one?

    alphie (99bc18)

  8. I doubt they’ll correct the first “error.”

    Talk about a bad faith misreading of what Rutten actually wrote.

    Talk about drive-by commenting.

    Make your case or take a hike.

    As for saying the disfigured woman was American…haha, correction coming on that one?

    I have been looking for a copy of the original piece, which has been disappeared by TNR. Does it contain information that ought to cause me to make a correction?

    Again, just say what your point is explicitly, or I’ll give you a one-week vacation. I’m not in the mood to screw around with you. I’m happy to have dissenting views, but I’m not going to spend a bunch of time extracting them.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  9. No one said that the disfigured woman — if she exists — was American. The issue was whether she was Iraqi — and neither Beauchamp nor anyone else ever claimed that she was.

    I think you need to look in the mirror before you accuse others of a bad faith reading.

    aunursa (0661a4)

  10. Rutten was obviously recounting the tale up to the point where Drudge posted the new docs:

    Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him. Both the New Republic — still unable to determine whether its story was true or false — and bloggers interested in the case — enraged that the story had “defamed” and “dishonored” the U.S. military — have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for release of documents produced by the Army’s inquiry.

    There things remained until Wednesday, when the Drudge Report suddenly posed one of its rare reportorial “exclusives.”

    The fact that Rutten went on to write about the subsequent contact between TNR and Beauchamp should have been a clue to reread the piece if you didn’t understand it.

    alphie (99bc18)

  11. I didn’t say she *was* American. I said that, if she exists at all, the fact that Beauchamp described her as a possible soldier or civilian contractor would lead one to assume that she was an American (as opposed to an Iraqi, a conclusion for which there is no evidence at all).

    Again, if there is something flawed about my analysis, I’m happy to hear it. But spell it out. I am not playing the Guessing Game. I’m telling you that very clearly, alphie.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  12. “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.”

    And you’re reading that to say:

    Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine had been unable to communicate with him, until Wednesday, when it became clear that they had been able to communicate with him three times over the past several weeks. So what the hell did I mean when I said “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.”?? I have no idea, since that sentence as written is flatly false.

    The sentence, alphie, is “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.” It is false.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  13. There things remained until Wednesday…

    Come on Patterico.

    alphie (99bc18)

  14. If we accept alphie’s interpretation, we’re left with the conclusion that Rutten is a subpar writer. Saying:

    Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.

    And then:

    There things remained until Wednesday,

    The timeline he presents contradicts itself. The magazine has been unable to communicate with him. Not was unable to communicate with him, has been unable. Using “has been” there is bad writing.

    But in any case, Rutten’s silly little timeline still doesn’t hold water. Unless he thinks that The New Republic talked with Beauchamp on the day Drudge posted the docs and that the transcripts were leaked bare hours later, what he’s saying is still factually inaccurate. When did the phone conversation in the documents take place?

    Once again you really have to be struck by just how dishonest alphie is. There is no way that anyone literate and honest can read what Rutten wrote and think that:

    Rutten was obviously recounting the tale up to the point where Drudge posted the new docs:

    If the phone conversation in the documents took place at any point in time before Drudge posted the documents, obviously the above quote by Trolly can’t be true. Drudge wasn’t liveblogging the conversation or something.

    The New Republic was obviously able to speak to Beauchamp before Drudge posted the documents of The New Republic’s conversation with Beauchamp.

    The fact that Rutten went on to write about the subsequent contact between TNR and Beauchamp should have been a clue to reread the piece if you didn’t understand it.

    Seriously why waste your time with a one-week ban, either permaban or just let him roam wild. Alphie isn’t going to change, he lies to your face every time you lay down a gauntlet Patterico. Even if his latest post wasn’t a lie from top to bottom, he still didn’t do what you told him he had to do to avoid bannination.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  15. http://confederateyankee.mu.nu/archives/243076.php

    The conversation in the documents took place over a month ago. \

    Tell me AlpoTroll, since when was over a month ago the same time as last Wednesday? Seems to me there’s 3 weeks or more missing there, some kind of weird gap… I’m sure your mental acrobatics are up to the task of explaining it though.

    There is no way that Rutten’s piece is factually accurate on that point no matter how much misinformation alphie spews.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  16. “There things remained until Wednesday . . .”

    The phone conversation took place weeks before “Wednesday.”

    If Rutten had said: “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine claimed that it had been unable to communicate with him.”

    or

    “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and it was believed that the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.”

    Then alphie’s argument could make sense.

    But that ain’t what he wrote. So either alphie ain’t that bright, or he’s playing games.

    Bad faith? Or denseness?

    Patterico (bad89b)

  17. Patterico,

    Rutten is retelling the tale so far.

    When you rewatch Star Wars and see this scroll up the screen:

    Episode IV, A NEW HOPE It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…

    Do you start yelling “The base isn’t hidden…the Empire knows where it is!”

    alphie (99bc18)

  18. Alpo’s vocabulary and writing style rule out denseness. Either that or he’s a 13 year old who’s best friend is a thesaurus.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  19. How many lying comments in how many different posts does alpo get before you make good on your threat Patterico? Geez.

    Rutten is inaccurately retelling the tale so far.

    Quote fixed so alpo can vicariously experience telling the truth, for once. Just imagine that it was really you saying it alpo!

    chaos (9c54c6)

  20. Alpo’s vocabulary and writing style rule out denseness. Either that or he’s a 13 year old who’s best friend is a thesaurus.

    Maybe, but he really could use a Strunk & White’s…

    Paul (66339f)

  21. I think he needs help with reading comprehension before he graduates to style and usage.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  22. Do you really think so Paul? I think alpo needs more… remedial instruction in reading comprehension before he moves on to The Elements of Style…

    chaos (9c54c6)

  23. I think Alphie needs a time-out but he can’t stop himself from commenting. I know the feeling but it’s also true that self-discipline is good for the soul.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  24. Rutten is retelling the tale so far.

    Interesting.

    So on 10/27, Rutten says:

    “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.”

    But really, he’s describing the story “so far” — up until the previous Wednesday, 10/24.

    When it became publicly known that the magazine had been able to communicate with Beauchamp on 9/7, 9/8, and 9/25.

    If that’s the argument, then as I said, Rutten should not have written:

    “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.”

    but rather:

    “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and it was believed that the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.”

    And that is my last attempt to try to explain introductory logical principles to someone with no apparent capacity to begin to understand them.

    What is charming about you, alphie — and simultaneously infuriating — is that you are not only so dense . . . you are unrelatingly and cheerfully unaware how dense you are.

    Here’s the thing, though:

    The rest of us aren’t.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  25. DRJ,

    I’m inclined to agree. I’ll watch and wait for his next comment to see if there is any hint of understanding. If not, I’m making a “T” with my hands, signifying a one-week timeout.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  26. Columns like Rutten’s aren’t worth so much of your time anyway. What gets in the news section is far more serious. For example, giving the wrong instructions on how to prepare for a fire evacuation. That kind of misinformation on a public safety matter could actually hurt someone. It deserved more than a passing mention.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  27. It got a post, as you know, since you just linked it.

    And Michelle Malkin linked the post, so a few people saw it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  28. alpo isn’t unaware of how dense his comments make him look. =)

    chaos (9c54c6)

  29. As was discussed when all the original hashing out the story parts when this whole thing first started it was deemed highly unlikely that the disfigured woman would be military. Almost any service of any nation would have had her treated through their medical corps and the possibility of her being sent back to Iraq or even Kuwait in that kind of condition would not be likely. She would most likely have gotten a medical discharge of some type or at least plastic surgery to fix the issue and it is totally unlikely that she was a recent injury on the way out of country on a medevac since she would be in Germany for treatment in a short time.

    The only possible consideration would have to be a medically discharged american who came back as a contractor and the odds on that are very slim to say the least.

    Similar logic works for the country of your choice, but contractors usually will not take anyone onboard with those kind of physical issues in such a hazardous environment.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  30. The incorrect statement regarding lack of communications is (I think) just poor logical writing, not a mistake of fact. The others are sloppy mistakes of fact. Overall, the thing just seems poorly done.

    TCO (79dafb)

  31. When at TNR one might avoid this stuff.

    Guy (3674d6)

  32. Aaah,

    Now we’re arguing about style, not substance.

    Are you saying a reader of Rutten’s article wouldn’t know that Beauchamp and TNR had communicated, even though it contained this:

    Two were transcripts of a Sept. 7 telephone conference call in which Beauchamp, with at least two military superiors present with him in Iraq, spoke at length with New Republic editor Franklin Foer and the magazine’s executive editor Peter Scoblic.

    I don’t think so.

    alphie (99bc18)

  33. Is “you” me?

    TCO (79dafb)

  34. Oh my God, alphie just linked to the opening scroll of Star Wars to make a point. He is even more of a loser than I had previously thought — I just went from being largely annoyed by him to feeling incredibly sorry for him. A real eye-opener for me.

    JVW (951b34)

  35. Are you saying a reader of Rutten’s article wouldn’t know that Beauchamp and TNR had communicated, even though it contained this:

    Rutten’s article doesn’t say when the military spokesman made the denial he references. So they would know that communication happened, but not that the fact of the communication disproves the statement of Rutten’s that I have quoted a dozen or so times on this thread:

    “Since then, Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him.”

    “Then” was 8/7/07. I bet most of Rutten’s readers didn’t know that.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  36. JVW,

    Are you going to make me defend alphie?

    It was an analogy.

    It was a really crappy analogy. But not because it was from Star Wars.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  37. Beauchamp has also changed his story. The woman in the cafeteria incident allegedly happened in Kuwait before he was transferred to Iraq. Doesn’t that make it even less likely the alleged woman is Iraqi?

    David (24f84e)

  38. Patterico:

    Sure it is an analogy, but it is still from Star Wars. Not that I dislike the movie or anything, but Lord am I tired of all the people who think that George Lucas has some deep and profound insight into the human experience. He could have used some allusion into classical literature, or some great work of theater, but no, he chooses a popcorn move (and again, one that I like) to try to make some deep point about the war effort in Iraq and the surrounding debate.

    And, for the third time, I like Star Wars.

    JVW (951b34)

  39. The worst thing about Rutten’s column is that the unambiguously false statements, such as about the disfigured “Iraqi” woman, have not been corrected. That should have been done immediately once the Times learned of the errors. Then the debatable items could have been tackled.

    I found something else objectionable that doesn’t quite rise to the level of an error, but is sloppy nonetheless:
    It’s a fascinating question, but in the orgy of pro-war Internet comment that surged through the blogosphere, no one bothered to ask in any serious way why Drudge might have dropped an item of this consequence so quickly.

    Unless Rutten has read all of the “pro-war Internet comment,” he has no way of knowing this is the case.

    Also objectionable:
    According to sources at the New Republic, who asked to remain anonymous, Foer and Scoblic never were informed that the Army was taping their telephone conversation with Beauchamp, though they had every reason to presume that was so. These sources also say that since Sept. 7, Foer has had two additional telephone conversations with Beauchamp when none of his superiors were present. According to a knowledgeable source, in both of those calls Beauchamp denied signing an admission that his story was false and apart from the incident already corrected, insisted the story was true.

    Rutten’s column is infested with anonymice!

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  40. Good catch. That’s a pretty strange use of anonymous sourcing. Why can’t Foer or whoever go on the record and say what they thought. It sounds like actual in the office gossip from underlings at this stage. If not worse, Foer having his cake and eating it too.

    TCO (79dafb)

  41. I’ll be doing a post on that. Thanks, Bradley. I’ll credit you.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  42. I don’t believe it’s sloppiness for even a second. These types of writers are professional liars and spin artists. I’ve seen their type myself at work. If anyone here has never been tempted to lay down a spin lie to wiggle out of some uncomfortable postition, then you haven’t been around into or past pueberty.
    One problem with the whole media situation is the endless benefit of the doubt to the obviously busted liars, called professional courtesy. Try Dan Rather on for size. Some people just cannot come clean.
    I detest the day “deep throat” entered the media lexicon. Certainly almost every single tidbit of these lying and false media charade stories can be directly relegated to the effects of that sad chapter. Add in the strange legal twistings that protect the guilty and the guiltier while condemning the innocent, and it’s a full blown spectacular menagerie of confusion, obstruction, embarrassment and revenge reincantations and all the squabbling over what, in a sane persons mind, is clearly already a fully settled matter.

    SiliconDoc (da9276)

  43. [takes a bow]

    No one seems to want to acknowledge it, but I was the one who exposed this article to the nation by posting on Michelle Malkin’s blog.

    I have pointed out errors before to the “ombudsperson”. Most of the time, simple mistakes were noted in future editions of the paper. In this case, the errors have so numerous and have political implications, so don’t bet the house …

    corona (dd769a)

  44. corona,

    Interesting. How’s about a little link to go with that?

    Patterico (eccc16)

  45. Oh. Well, for what it’s worth, I had seen it on Friday night when it first went up, and always planned to write about it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  46. I grew up in LA and have read the Times for 40+ years, and it’s always been a terrible paper–for reasons that have changed over time even as the paper’s banality and laziness have remained constant. But in all that time, has the paper employed a more egregious, self-satisfied dope than Rutten? Can’t think of one….

    Scott Kaufer (2d1dc6)


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