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.
- “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 . . .”
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 . . .”
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 . . .”
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.
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.
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.