Patterico's Pontifications

12/1/2007

BREAKING: The New Republic Retracts Beauchamp Stories

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:46 pm

On October 12 — shortly after the news broke that Scott Beauchamp had spoken with editors of The New Republic and refused to stand by his story — I asked a very simple question:

if Scott Beauchamp can’t stand by his story, how can The New Republic stand by his story?

As it turns out, they can’t.

Bob Owens reports that TNR has issued a statement, amusingly titled Fog of War. (In the “Fog of War,” who can remember whether they mocked a disfigured woman in Iraq or in Kuwait?) Buried deep down in the TNR statement is this:

When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.

In my October post, I said:

Where I suspect this is headed is simple: the editors can’t hide forever. Sooner or later they are going to have to address this. And if they can’t get something solid from Beauchamp, then they are going to have to retract the story.

. . . .

And if, as Power Line suggests, the content of their conversation with Beauchamp becomes public, and it suggests that what I have said above is true — that despite a public face of confidence in their story, they were actually trembling with fear over their reputations — then the fallout will be very ugly indeed.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the fallout. In fact, I think it may be just beginning.

Stay tuned to Pajamas Media for a more detailed reaction from Bob.

UPDATE: The Instapundit says:

AMIDST A CLOUD OF INK, TNR RETRACTS AND FLEES THE SCENE.

That’s a great metaphor. It’s a reference to the octopus, which squirts out ink as a defense mechanism. Here is an elaboration of the metaphor by a prosecutor, who used it to portray defense arguments as an effort to obscure the truth:

I am reminded of a story that the writer, Victor Hugo, tells us about an octopus who really has no feet to attack its enemies like a bird, it has no claws like a lion and it has no teeth like an alligator. What the octopus does when it attacks is it releases a big pouch filled with ink into the water, and this ink is released and it clouds up the water. And the octopus swims away while the water is still muddied up, and his enemies cannot see him.

Why I tell you that is you have been given a big ink pouch in this case.

Similarly, as the Instapundit notes, TNR editors have issued their retraction in the middle of a big cloud of ink. But it won’t work. We are still able to behold the form of the retreating octopus.

UPDATE x2: Michelle Malkin: “Buh-bye, Franklin Foer.” (Thanks for the link, Michelle.)

UPDATE x3: Thanks to Instapundit for the link. He adds: “My take? Push the button, Frank.”

Heh.

An octopus metaphor and an MST3K reference, all in fewer than 50 words. Now that’s how you express concepts clearly and concisely. No octopus ink there!

UPDATE x4: I discuss the takeaway points from Foer’s piece here. My favorite: TNR let Beauchamp’s wife participate in fact-checking one of his stories.

62 Responses to “BREAKING: The New Republic Retracts Beauchamp Stories”

  1. Oh great. Now the Beauchampbots will be infesting the site. ;)

    Seriously, Patrick, TNR is way overdue on this. I’m not surprised they tried to bury it.

    Paul (36cd46)

  2. And what a cloud it was.

    I made it only as far as page three, when I gagged on the supposed phone conversation between Reeves and her hubby, wherein soldiers with no names supposedly remember the supposedly disfigured woman.

    Thanks for reading the rest, so I didn’t need to.

    mariner (a47c15)

  3. (In the “Fog of War,” who can remember whether they mocked a disfigured woman in Iraq or in Kuwait?)

    I would just add, “…before they entered the war theater?”

    Or the soldiers had pre-emptive PTSD. I’m sure Brian De Palma will make a movie about it.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  4. Insty:

    “My take? Push the button, Frank.”

    Heh.

    Kensington (d4b3c2)

  5. -

    Predacted: The War Diaries of Scott Beauchamp

    A Film by Brian DePalma

    -

    BumperStickerist (350875)

  6. Three pages? My patience on this 14 web page bit torrent ran out in three paragraphs. I did skip to the end. I gather that those who read it all wouldn’t mind that portion of their life back.

    gajim (e39b35)

  7. THE FOG OF WAR LYING

    sherlock (b4bbcc)

  8. Fog of War? More like Fog of Words. If they had something honest to say they would have managed to say it in far far less than 14 pages.

    pst314 (20d3ed)

  9. Appropriately enough, I happen to be watching Rocket Attack, U.S.A. right now as this story breaks. “Push the button, Frank” indeed.

    Jeff B. (7faa29)

  10. I think it’s interesting. I don’t begrudge them the 14 pages.

    I just think they should have put the bottom line up front.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  11. I haven’t followed this story as closely as some, so there are some tidbits that I haven’t heard before — and I’m wondering whether they were made public before. For example:

    * Beauchamp’s wife was involved in the fact-checking of the article.

    * One of the corroborating witnesses had been taken out of the Army for mental health reasons.

    Did we know these facts before?

    Does anyone know?

    Patterico (faeccf)

  12. Interesting that the initial set of pages make it seem like there are only ten pages; to get to the second set you need “NEXT”.

    Oh! TNR didn’t retract the stories, they just can’t stand by them.

    Someone take his shovel away, please.

    htom (412a17)

  13. How long before the LA Times hires Foer?

    huey (c8d568)

  14. I just spoke to Bob Owens. The details mentioned in my comment 11 are new.

    Now THAT is the news.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  15. Very poor choice of wording: Foer considers it unfortunate that “the standards of this magazine require more than [Beauchamp's word]“?

    Matthew King (d11351)

  16. We were aware of the first of those, that his wife was the “factchecker.” Not the second that I am aware of, and I followed it pretty closely.

    Dan S (d80c9b)

  17. Yeah, like Pravda in the Soviet days, the real information is buried at the end. Foer couldn’t even bring himself to state TNR retracts the stories. He only uses “retract” to justify TNR’s reluctance to retract.

    Better it be titled: “Fog Of Unethical Journalism”

    Shameful!

    Anyone notice the irony of the timing? Ever since Richard “Saturday Night Massacre” Nixon, presidents with secrets to hide have put out the news over the weekend when they presume nobody’s not watching.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  18. Franklin Foer, still insulting the troops.

    Sitting in an air donditioned office, thousands of miles from combat, is nothing like the “Fog of War” and it is insulting that Franklin would use this as an excuse of his incompetence.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  19. How dumb do you have to be to call a piece “The Fog of War” and not realize that everyone’s going to call it “The Fog of Foer”?

    Mike G (1dffb4)

  20. #18 Oops “air conditioned office.” Must not type when angry.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  21. Dan,

    Did we know it? Or just suspect it?

    Do you have a link?

    Patterico (faeccf)

  22. Foer says:

    …Thomas described how war distorts moral judgments….

    Indeed, sir, it has distorted moral judgments — yours. Thomas at least eventually said he’d fucked up. You’re still weasel-mouthing it, no disrespect to weasels intended.

    htom (412a17)

  23. Bob Owens tells me, Dan, that this tidbit had not been revealed previously.

    We knew the wife was a fact-checker — but not for any of Beauchamp’s stories.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  24. Great, now that this is all cleared up, you can turn to the exaggerations over at NRO.

    Andrew J. Lazarus (0d6a2d)

  25. gosh! You guys really did a great job of putting the hate on a member of our armed forces serving in Iraq!

    Good job of “supporting our troops” gang!

    p_lukasiak (e59d7d)

  26. What was with his gratuitous dig at Matt Sanchez, by the way?

    MayBee (179f45)

  27. You mean like “General Betrayus”, Clinton clone?

    nk (2e8319)

  28. ummmm, p_

    ‘the hate’, as such, is firmly locused on TNR.

    If by ‘hate’ you mean ‘critique of professional standards’.

    BumperStickerist (350875)

  29. I don’t think we knew Beauchamp’s wife was the fact-checker on this story, only that she was a TNR fact-checker. There was suspicion that she might have worked on her husband’s story but it wasn’t known for sure.

    The only TNR information I can recall came from this Washington post article by Howard Kurtz that quotes Franklin Foer as follow:

    “The magazine’s editor, Franklin Foer, disclosed in an interview that Beauchamp is married to a New Republic staffer, and that is “part of the reason why we found him to be a credible writer.”

    One conclusion that could be drawn from that statement was that Beauchamp’s wife was the fact-checker, but I think most people construed it to mean there was limited fact-checking done because the source was related to someone on TNR’s staff.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  30. Hugo did a great injustice to octopi, which are by no means defenseless. This video should put the kibosh on that fantasy.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  31. I just love the way the trolls rush out and attempt to compare a blog entry and quick resonse (on NRO) to the hoity-toity ‘professional’ organization of an edited (undoubtedly *multiple* layers of editing *AND* fact-checking) national journal of political opinion with reasonably lengthy time-to-publication resources and it months of delay, denial, retreat, side-stepping and intense obfuscation (if not outright lying). What’s the matter? Absolutely no defense at all of your buddies? Where’s the evidence of innocence, dudes? Bring it on, losers.

    JorgXMcKie (4068d7)

  32. TNR failed its character check.

    In spite of everything, I hope the stress and fallout don’t overtake this 20-something couple’s marriage. Franklin Foer’s marriage, not so much. Beauchamp had to stay on post and focused next to a lot of cold shoulders. As noted, Elspeth “Ellie” Reeve, a 2005 honors graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, is gone from TNR’s masthead.

    If Beauchamp ever leaves Iraq, I rather suspect he will offer a version that reveals some coercive acts by the Army. Which will be believed by no one who carried the ball this far from the Weekly Standard’s curtain-raising audit.

    steve (075694)

  33. Yep, the trolls help Foer out with some more ink.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  34. Steve #32,

    If the point of your second paragraph is that there are often adverse consequences from people’s wrongful actions, I agree.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  35. Buried deep down in the TNR statement …

    ‘Buried deep’ is an understatement. Ye gods, it’s 14 pages deep (complete with the fake-out at page 10 that htom mentions). Gives new meaning to the term ‘hemming and hawing’ … not to mention ‘shucking and jiving.’

    Achillea (b681e3)

  36. Odds and ends as I read Franklin Foer’s article:

    From page 2 –

    “We published an online statement pledging an investigation. That weekend, members of the editorial staff assembled at my house to divide up the task of re-reporting his stories. It was the beginning of a project that, for long stretches, superseded our day jobs–and led us to some uncomfortable conclusions.”

    This is an interesting approach to handling a serious inquiry about an article’s veracity. Why conduct a meeting like this at the editor’s home, instead of his office? Were they trying to hide it from the staff or is it because they didn’t want it to interfere with their “day jobs”?

    The use of the term “day jobs” is also interesting. Isn’t it part of an editor’s day job to re-report and substantiate a questionable article? This suggests TNR handled the Beauchamp response as an afterthought or a problem to be addressed after-hours in their spare time. That is not reassuring.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  37. DRJ, I take it as just “oh poor us” whining from Foer – implying that all the evil critics made them work harder than they deserved.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  38. That was a pretty amazing filibuster. Perhaps Foer can teach a class for the Senate.

    gabriel (4ced83)

  39. If Beauchamp ever leaves Iraq, I rather suspect he will offer a version that reveals some coercive acts by the Army.

    Sure, and OJ will find the real killer out on a golf course somewhere–we just have to be patient.

    M. Scott Eiland (56ea55)

  40. I am still waiting for TNR’s apology for besmirching the honor of the young men and women who now wear Uncle’s suit.

    Peter (c36902)

  41. If the point of your second paragraph is that there are often adverse consequences from people’s wrongful actions, I agree.

    A rare breakthrough.

    The point was there are consequences from unrestrained pressure and not everything Beauchamp withstood deployed in Iraq is necessarily proportional.

    If he’s the demonic genius you want to walk the plank, say so with more conviction.

    This is war between two of Washington’s most prominent partisan political publications, The New Republic and the Weekly Standard. Metaphors, aside.

    steve (86d711)

  42. Actually, not many octopii use ink, but almost all squid do. :-)

    Dave (931f3a)

  43. Steve #41,

    You clearly believe the story has some basis in fact but if you’re wrong, I think you only have two choices: Either Beauchamp and Reeve were innocent pawns of TNR or they were active participants in propagating this story. If Beauchamp and Reeve were active participants in fronting a lie, they deserve adverse consequences.

    If, on the other hand, Beauchamp and Reeve were innocent pawns and you are correct this is *just* a war between TNR and the Weekly Standard, what does it say about TNR that the editors were willing to let Beauchamp and Reeve take heat for 4+ months – let alone making them the scapegoats?

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  44. As a six-year veteran, I knew this story was a heaping pile of cow dung from the moment it was published. That TNR even came out and semi-admitted it is as stunning to me as Nikita Kruschchev blasting Stalin’s regime for its crimes in front of the Politburo in 1956. Admitting error is SO against the nature of both diehard Communists and what passes for journalists these days, as if there was a difference.

    The fun part will be to see how many deluded and disappointed libtards come out here and defend Beauchamp despite the admission, as they have not yet come to grips with Dan Rather’s TANG docs being forgeries. Like UFO nuts, they WANT to believe!

    What’s the dif, right? Fake but accurate is all.

    JohnnyT (e84709)

  45. Foer’s new movie is already out…
    The Fog of Foer

    BorderPundit (55e9de)

  46. From page 4 of Foer’s statement:

    Facing the difficulties of verifying the piece, but wanting to ensure its plausibility before publication, we sent the piece to a correspondent for a major newspaper who had spent many tours embedded in Iraq. He had heard accounts of soldiers killing dogs with Bradleys. These accounts stuck with him because they represented a symbolic shift in the war. Iraqis regard dogs as annoying pests. At the beginning of the conflict, Americans made great efforts to befriend these mistreated mutts. It seemed telling that Americans now treated dogs with as little regard as Iraqis did. He considered Beauchamp’s dog- hunting anecdote plausible.

    But the reporter doubted the tale of the disfigured woman. What would a woman with the disfigurements described by Beauchamp be doing in a war zone?

    I wonder who this correspondent is?

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  47. From page 9:

    As soon as Beauchamp went public, according to Reeve, the military immediately prevented him from calling even his family, who enlisted the help of a home-state politician to restore a line of communication;

    I’m not sure where Reeve’s family is from. Would this be someone from Missouri, perhaps? Or Virginia? Foer’s article says Reeve and Beauchamp were married in Virginia.

    Edit: Reeves’ bio says she’s from Atlanta GA.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  48. From page 11:

    After we had posted an online statement explaining that we had been unable to communicate with Beauchamp–who, according to Reeve, was under orders not to speak with us–and pleading with the Army to make him available to us, General David Petraeus’s spokesman, Steven Boylan, told the Standard, “We are not preventing [Beauchamp] from speaking to TNR or anyone.” One of our editors called Boylan’s office on a near-daily basis to set up a phone call with Beauchamp; every time, they told us they were working on our request. After several weeks, we stopped hearing back from them. The Army later confirmed to us that it had, indeed, prevented Beauchamp from speaking.

    Who at the Army told TNR this?

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  49. Dan,

    Did we know it? Or just suspect it?

    Do you have a link?

    Comment by Patterico — 12/1/2007 @ 3:06 pm

    Well, maybe it was deduced. She was mentioned as one of the fact checkers for TNR, she turned up prominently in the transcript of the Foer call to Iraq insisting Scott not recant (and being the substance in an apparent emotional blackmail), and there was word she was gone from TNR a couple months ago. Putting all that together…

    Seeing that in Foer’s magnum soapus didn’t cause either of my eyebrows to twitch one millimeter.

    The mental health issues with a witness TNR was counting on was completely new. But then it’s the first direct mention of any witness as more than completely anonymous that I recall.

    I don’t have any links at this point, just way too much scrambled together reading from all over.

    Dan S (d80c9b)

  50. Moonbat: gosh! You guys really did a great job of putting the hate on a member of our armed forces serving in Iraq! Good job of “supporting our troops” gang!

    He’s a sh!tbird who falsely accused his fellow soldiers of horrible acts, much like the weasel your party ran for president in 04. He’s lucky they didn’t frag him. But he’s learned his lesson and is trying to make it right [by reinvesting himself in his duties]. Unlike Foer, who doesn’t even have the integrity to issue a proper mea culpa.

    Thank you TNR for disgracing yourself so brilliantly. I’ll place Foer’s weaselly retraction on my trophy wall, right next to the Mary Mapes book.

    Semper Fi, Devil Dogs. Nicely done bloggers!

    Fen (ea1554)

  51. Let me use some terminology that Mr. Foer may not be familiar with, but those that have beem pilots in the military may have heard before:

    FOER – EJECT, EJECT, EJECT!

    fmfnavydoc (affdec)

  52. You clearly believe the story has some basis in fact but if you’re wrong, I think you only have two choices: Either Beauchamp and Reeve were innocent pawns of TNR or they were active participants in propagating this story.

    The couple can’t be innocent pawns of TNR if the story has no basis in fact. The story may be partly true.

    TNR editors lacked character not disowning what they couldn’t corroborate long before now. And they never should have published a diary they were unable to spot-check.

    Beauchamp can only be censured AFTER he’s clear to speak freely. As former editor-in-chief of a liberal campus newspaper, he’s not a novice. He may well be a fabricator, but he knows all the rules he broke, if any, backward and forward.

    steve (3f8a10)

  53. p_lukasiak wrote:

    “gosh! You guys really did a great job of putting the hate on a member of our armed forces serving in Iraq!”

    Hey Paul, where’s Lucy Ramirez?

    kl (5e5b1e)

  54. If Beauchamp and Reeve were active participants in fronting a lie, they deserve adverse consequences.

    DRJ,
    According to the posts from last month Beauchamp was counseled by his superiors and allowed to stay in Iraq by his commander.
    What further adverse consequences do you propose for him when he returns to the states?

    voiceofreason (cae421)

  55. Steve – I know you want to wait until Beauchamp can speak freely. I was trying to move past that and speak hypothetically. However, as you pointed out, my hypothetical was flawed. I should have said that Reeve could be an innocent pawn even if the story is untrue.

    Was Beauchamp editor of a college newspaper or are you referring to Reeve? If Beauchamp, which college newspaper?

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  56. VOR,

    I think Beauchamp’s reputation has suffered as a result of this story and I view that as an adverse consequence. In addition, I think anytime there is a reasonable basis to believe a reporter has fabricated stories, that should affect the reporter’s employability. That’s what I mean by adverse consequences.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  57. DRJ,
    Thanks for answering.

    voiceofreason (cae421)

  58. VOR,

    I can see we were thinking of different kinds of consequences. When people dig themselves into a hole because of a character issue, I think their reputations should suffer and future employers are justified in taking their history into consideration. But I also believe in General Petreaus’ theory of second chances.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  59. DRJ,

    Yes I agree. I think that philosophy is part of the motive that Beauchamp’s commander probably had in mind. That is one of the better aspects of military service compared to the civilian world. People such as his commander and Petreaus, thankfully, are not in short supply.
    Thanks for the link to the story.

    voiceofreason (cae421)

  60. Petreaus is a hell of a man.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  61. A young man, heady with ink, gets over his head and is unable to find his way out of the murk. That’s believable — and it applies to both Beauchamp and Foer.

    Joel Rosenberg (677e59)

  62. Perhaps people just don’t understand the NUANCE of TNR’s position on this and Foer thought he could obfuscate it further with 14 pages defending why they could stand by the stories before mysteriously throwing in the towel.

    daleyrocks (906622)


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