Like Michael Goldfarb, I received an e-mail from the L.A. Times “Readers’ Representative” today refusing to correct numerous clear errors in a recent column by Tim Rutten. (My previous correspondence with the Readers’ Representative on this issue can be read here.)
The e-mail I received answers a question that the e-mail to Goldfarb did not: namely, why is the paper refusing to correct Rutten’s false claim that “Beauchamp has remained in Iraq with his unit and the magazine has been unable to communicate with him” since August? As Goldfarb says, even The New Republic doesn’t believe this.
When you put the two e-mails together, here is the current state of affairs:
- Drudge included a link to the Memorandum for Record, but Rutten gets to say he didn’t.
- The editors of The New Republic never admitted that Beauchamp made up the story about the disfigured woman, but Rutten gets to say they did.
- The editors of The New Republic have talked to Beauchamp since August, but Rutten gets to say they didn’t.
- Beauchamp gave no description of the disfigured woman as an Iraqi, but Rutten gets to say he did.
- The L.A. Times believes that trying to run over dogs is the same as running over dogs and killing them.
Here is the full text of the e-mail I received. It is breathtaking in the depth and breadth of the disingenuous arguments it advances.
Thanks for your follow-up notes.
L.A. Times columnists, Rutten among them, are encouraged to use their columns as forums for their fact-based assessments of news events. His assessments might not match yours, but that doesn’t mean that his assessments warrant correction.
Regarding the first point that you raised: With all due respect for your analysis, I don’t think that readers were misled on that point. Even an individual who wasn’t as careful a reader as you couldn’t fail to note that much of Rutten’s column was about the communications between the editors and the soldier. To your other points: While the disfigured woman was not specifically described as being Iraqi, the columnist infers from the fact that she was there (vs. being sent home as a U.S. soldier or civilian would be) that she is Iraqi. Rutten referred to the Bradleys as trying to run over stray dogs, vs. kill the dogs, but I’m not seeing that point as warranting correction (I can’t imagine that a reader thinks that a Bradley trying to run over dogs is any different from a Bradley trying to kill dogs); re: whether, as the column said, the magazine “determined that the incident involving the disfigured woman was concocted and corrected”: The columnist’s point is that, as a scene in Iraq, it was “concocted” in that it never happened there. The magazine corrected it, which means editors admit it never happened there.
Thank you again for raising these points,
Gold doesn’t respond to my point that Rutten falsely claimed that “Drudge provided links to the transcripts and report but not to the purported ‘Memorandum for Record.’” But her response can be seen in the e-mail to Goldfarb:
Rutten’s assessment is that it was not clear that the memo at the end of the military officer’s report/summary is the same one to which Drudge’s original post referred. The columnist’s thinking: Drudge lists it apart from the final document, but — as Rutten wrote — Drudge provides no link, nor does he say it can be found at the end of the report, seeming to indicate possession of another document, but providing no link. I don’t believe that Rutten’s column warrants correction on that point.
That is stunningly disingenuous. In the documents Drudge posted was a document labeled:
Rutten said it wasn’t there. It was. The paper won’t correct it. They should.
In the e-mail to me, Gold is careful to separate herself from Rutten’s argument that he was to correct to say the magazine had labeled the disfigured woman story as “concocted.” Ms. Gold’s job is to deal with corrections. She knows when a media outlet has admitted error and when they have admitted making something up — and she knows that the two are quite different.
This is about Timothy Rutten pigheadedly refusing to admit when he’s been caught with his pants down.
Ms. Gold, Rutten’s assessments don’t have to match mine, but they do have to match the facts. They don’t. And it is a shameful episode for your paper that the editors don’t seem to care.
UPDATE: I sent Ms. Gold an e-mail response, republished here, and focused my complaint on the distortion of the word “concocted.” There is much else I could have said in response. But I’m taking it one point at a time.