Patterico's Pontifications

12/1/2007

TNR Let Beauchamp’s Wife Fact-Check His Stories

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:02 pm



As I see it, here are the major takeaway items from Franklin Foer’s piece on Scott Thomas Beauchamp. I spoke to Bob Owens and he confirmed that these facts were revealed for the first time in Foer’s piece.

  • Beauchamp’s wife was involved the fact-checking of Beauchamp’s pieces.

    See page 3 of the 14-page statement:

    But there was one avoidable problem with our Beauchamp fact-check. His wife, Reeve, was assigned a large role in checking his third piece. While we believe she acted with good faith and integrity–not just in this instance, but throughout this whole ordeal–there was a clear conflict of interest. At the time, our logic–in hindsight, obviously flawed–was that corresponding with a soldier in Iraq is logistically difficult and Reeve was already routinely speaking with him. It was a mistake–and we’ve imposed new rules to prevent future fact-checking conflicts of interest.

    It takes new rules to ensure that someone’s spouse is not involved in fact-checking their pieces?

    Amazing.

  • One of the corroborating witnesses for Beauchamp’s tales was removed from Iraq by the Army due to mental health problems.

    See page 9 of the statement:

    Beauchamp had described Kiple to me as the figure in his story who stabs his mashed potatoes in disgust at the sight of the disfigured woman and cracks jokes at her expense. When the “Shock Troops” controversy emerged, Kiple was in the process of leaving the military and was being held at a base in Germany. He told me the Army had removed him from Iraq on mental health grounds. Once in Germany, he had gotten into trouble for “out on the town stuff” and “resisting arrest.” We’d left messages on his MySpace page for him to call. Several days after Beauchamp went incommunicado, Kiple called me on a Saturday morning.

    Kiple understood that he didn’t make the ideal witness, given his current predicament. But he did recall the events Beauchamp described.

    So TNR told us that there were corroborating witnesses — but neglected to mention a credibility issue like this?

We also learn that the other corroborating witnesses for Beauchamp’s story were Beauchamp’s buddies. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall that having been disclosed previously either.

As I said, the fallout is going to be ugly.

Push the button, Frank.

UPDATE: Bob Owens’s Pajamas Media piece is out. Read it here.

46 Responses to “TNR Let Beauchamp’s Wife Fact-Check His Stories”

  1. You can’t make this stuff up. For journalism critics, TNR is the gift that keeps on giving.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  2. Franklin Foer should step down as soon as Kathryn Jean Lopez steps down – but not before. Of course no one cares – not even liberal bloggers, much less conservative bloggers – when conservative bloggers are caught fabricating stories – because dishonesty is an accepted norm.

    Or, Patterico, you could stop acting like a perverse thug, huh? Outside of Malkinland, we still don’t know if that stuff was true or false. The army’s investigation was political and equated “unproven” and false, relying on the certainty of punishment to compel denials and then touting them as fact. TNR made real attempts to figure out the truth before and afterward, and retracted the stories simply because they’re no longer certain that they’re true. The one clear – rather than alledged under highly dubious credibility – factual error was immediately corrected.

    TNR made some mistakes in their fact-checking process and was victimized by a variety of unfriendly co-narrators. Ever made a blogging mistake, Patterico? We look forward to your resignation, right? But you’re not a magazine? Just a blogger? Can’t hold you to the same standards?

    I’d like to see bloggers that make factual errors – or pass on the factual errors of others – resign and stop blogging. I’m sure you recognize the importance of not being a hypocrite.

    glasnost (c83ef1)

  3. So, glasnost (what a lousy pseudonym for such a troll), there is no difference between a blog (no ‘four layers of fact checkers’) posting and a less than 24-hour apology to the readers and a quick followup and explanation/retraction by the blogger and a NATIONALLY DISTRIBUTED MAGAZINE with its multiple (supposedly) layers of fact checkers and editors and proofreaders and time to publication followed by months of delay and denial?

    I was going to ask what world you lived in, but then I realized you’re one of those Reality-based idiots who reside in a world where facts and evidence have no meaning.

    Ah, well. Got any other groundless, ridiculous equations totally different situations? Maybe that poverty in the US is exactly equivalent to suffering the depredations of Timurlane? Or that a fistfight at the local bar was identical to WWII? Or that the hangnail you suffered yesterday is in now way different from the End Of The World?

    JorgXMcKie (4068d7)

  4. Ever made a blogging mistake, Patterico? We look forward to your resignation, right? But you’re not a magazine? Just a blogger? Can’t hold you to the same standards?

    It’s disclosure, my friend. If you let someone’s wife fact-check their pieces, ya might want to mention that. If you rely on a corroborating witness who was moved out of the war for mental health reasons, ya might want to mention that.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  5. Glasnost does not understand what the issues are in the first place, or just is intentionally misrepresenting them for the construction of his strawman. It isn’t the initial “mistake” that we’ve been roasting Foer for, it is how he failed to own up to it for months and used ad hominem attacks on his critics.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  6. And not a word of apology to be found, only more vitriol for TNR’s critics. And glasnost, did you actually read that piece you linked, and the pieces linked within? That’s how you should behave when you’ve got a story with problems. Not like Dan Rather and not like Frank Foer.

    Push the button, Frank.

    Pablo (99243e)

  7. I wonder how long before TNR allows any comments to be “approved” for posting. It will also be interesting to see what filtering they do on comments. I left what I consider to be a very well reasoned and calm comment — it remains to be seen when and if it appears.

    Charlie (db3f2a)

  8. I commented on TNR’s site.

    To quote Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons:

    “Ha ha!”

    I wonder if it will get through moderation? Nah…

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  9. It isn’t the initial “mistake” that we’ve been roasting Foer for, it is how he failed to own up to it for months and used ad hominem attacks on his critics.

    It’s also a violation of the basic principle I push here time and time again:

    Tell people what you know, and tell people what you don’t know.

    If there is something that casts doubt on your story, tell people about it.

    Ignoring the principle is what got Dan Rather amd Mary Mapes in trouble — and now, it’s clearer than ever that it’s also what got Franklin Foer & Co. in trouble.

    Patterico (faeccf)

  10. “Ignoring the principle is what got Dan Rather amd Mary Mapes in trouble…”

    No it isn’t. What got these two in trouble is they were desperately trying to throw the election in a particular direction. They both still insist the story was true in light of all the available evidence. Nothing casts doubt on the story to them. They either believe what they want to believe or, equally, keep lying.

    Dan Rather’s efforts were little short of a crime with enormous and potentially grave consequences. It was electoral fraud.

    The electoral system is what prevents a state of perpetual civil war or autocratic rule in the economically largest, by far most powerful country on Earth.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  11. Patterico, I agree with your point although I don’t know if your advice would help Foer, since his problem is more fundamental. Likewise, Rather and Mapes problem appears more intentional.

    Nonetheless, your point stands, and is among the contrasts between this situation and the National Review “The Tank” blog piece that glosnost and others dishonestly equate to TNR.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  12. > 6. And not a word of apology to be found, only more vitriol for TNR’s critics.

    Vitriol? You mean like this…

    The Army didn’t announce this to The New York Times or even The Weekly Standard, let alone in a public report. It first gave the story of Beauchamp’s supposed fraudulence to a former porn actor turned blogger named Matt Sanchez. …

    Very Classy, TNR.

    Arthur (aca835)

  13. Hmm… isn’t it interesting that former porn actors have superior ethics to ‘mainstream’ media outlets such as TNR!

    Brad (e26748)

  14. Wow, Foer is being torn a new one in the comments over on the “Fog of War” page. I will be amazed if he is still employed by TNR one week from today.

    Does anyone else find it interesting that there is no direct link to (or mention of) this revelation on the TNR home page?

    JVW (477e5a)

  15. To steal from comments about another journalist caught telling lies: “a reputation for making things up should be career death”.

    Judging by what Foer and company have written and what they have failed to write, it looks like a lot of careers need to end.

    pst314 (20d3ed)

  16. It’s too bad that a respectable publication such as TNR turned out to be the victim in this whole saga. They have been attacked mercilessly by the mighty right wing wurlizter of the U.S. Army, rabid bloggers, discredited former gay porn stars, the biased right wing media, and a host of others all eager to discredit the publication merely for disagreeing with the Administration’s position on the war in Iraq. It was a truly disgraceful performance.

    Unfortunately the pure fiction above is what a reader might believe after reading Foer’s 14 page pusillanimous explanation of the Beauchamp saga. After defending aspects of the story and presenting their version of corroborating evidence, and omitting publicly available evidence discrediting the stories, Foer does nothing to summarize what ultimately led him to conclusion to no longer stand by the stories. What a feaking coward.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  17. The real problem is one of intent. Had Scott reported he was helping orphans and building schools I am sure TNR would have had no interest in his story. TNR took their preconceived biased ideas found someeone who could back them up and ran with it. Sort of like Dan Rather.

    Dennis D (cdb678)

  18. glasnost, you energizer bunny you. Often wrong, never in doubt. Just for the record, your continuing to post or not post on this topic (and so many others) does not indicate whether you’re right or wrong.

    2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda didn’t surrender till 1974. Didn’t bother Macarthur any.

    As for your plaints on contra-TNR ‘arrogance’ or ‘hostility,’ let me just invite you to get real.

    It is really not necessary to dissect your post further, and I am a bit ill so won’t bother to illustrate. But please don’t confuse this with concession of any legitimacy on your side of the issue.

    Let me just suggest to you, in the kindest possible way: Try and learn something from this debacle. I guess that is too late for Foer to try, but hope springs eternal…

    nichevo (1510ce)

  19. JVW (comment 14) is right: of the 72 comments when I looked just now, 70 were scathing, and one of the other two was from Carol Herman. (With any luck, Jadegold, ScentOfViolets, and daveTM will also come to Foer’s defense!)

    Dr. Weevil (2640f1)

  20. The civil left is reacting as usual. Here’s an excerpt from lambert at correntewire:

    Sluttish, pouty-lipped, autocoprophagic concentration camp advocate and stalker-of-twelve-year-olds Michelle Malkin is going to turn the knobs all the way up to 11, isn’t she? We’re going be hearing the words “liberal New Republic”* until our ears bleed. (And—just in case there’s been a sudden outbreak of intellectual honesty on the right—what are we hearing about NRO’s own fabulist as Conservative Andrew Sullivan calls him? *** Crickets *** As expected.)

    Where is Gleen when you need him?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  21. Foer would have escaped nothing casting doubts on Beauchamp early on. He stonewalled because it was the Weekly Standard banging down his door. If Poynter had been posing those questions, Foer might have pulled the plug in days.

    Pride goeth before the brawl.

    steve (3f8a10)

  22. Lets take bets on how many months it takes CJR or any of the other J-school blogs to actually stop sucking off TNR and call them on their shitty “journalism” I’d bet good money that CJR doesn’t even bother to cover this.

    gabriel (4ced83)

  23. Well, my comment was posted. Reading the other comments I would say that only over the line comments are being moderated, if any.

    Charlie (db3f2a)

  24. Torn a new one is hardly the term for what’s happening to Franklin Baron Von Munchausen Foer over at the TNR blog. 215 comments last time I looked and they’re still piling on. And they are not happy campers.

    But what the heck, Franklin was at least as competent in his “fact checking” as CNN was in vetting the debate questioners for last week’s You Tube Video Debaclebate of the Republican presidential candidates.

    Mike Myers (31af82)

  25. Looks like the manatees picked out the latest “rebuttal” talking point for the moonbat trolls in the face of surrender by TNR. It’s rather adorable, really.

    M. Scott Eiland (56ea55)

  26. I’m almost sorry Tim Rutten is no longer writing a media column at the LA Times. It would be amusing to see how he handles The Retraction That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  27. If the following turns out to have legs will the national review be treated the same as TNR?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/12/01/in-the-tank-did-national_n_74954.html

    voiceofreason (cae421)

  28. The responses of the NRO and TNR already show the difference between the two cases. If you can’t understand that, then you are intentionally misrepresenting what is happening with TNR.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  29. glasnost- Congratulations- your complete and total BS of a post actually brought me out of the mundane world of passively sitting there laughing at Fabricatin’ Franklin Foer’s complete and total incompetence and into the world of reader comments.

    Could you be any more ignorant? Jeez- it’s know-nothing clowns like you make me embarrassed to serve. You mean, I actually have to defend your right to act like a complete and total jagoff? Man- they ain’t paying me enough for this. The next time you’re sitting with your legs crossed sipping on a latte and railing about how the Army set up TNR, you might want to consider a few things first.

    First of all- the Army doesn’t give a flying f— about TNR or Scott Beauchamp. We did the investigation into his allegations because we had a moral obligation to. What Franklin Foer calls “exceptionally mild pranks,” we call inexcusable behavior that not only offends host nation sensibilities but puts us at risk from those who seek any kind of event to turn the Iraqi populace against us. But, you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, you ignorant jerk?

    We didn’t even know who Beauchamp was when we launched it, and his identity being found out was simply a by-product of his own foolish bluster by posting his ludicrous defense of lies on TNR’s blog when the doubts about his stories first surfaced. He outed himself- we honestly didn’t care who he was, but once he did, it was game on.

    Also- how dare you act so pompous about our investigation when you don’t have the first clue about how we went about it, what we found and how easily refuted his ridiculous claims were? You and your little circle of TNR sycophants are a disgrace and probably have never served a day in your sad, privileged lives.

    But here’s a nice hot cup of STFU for you. People like you act like you’re so much more intelligent than everyone else, but to me, you’re just another opinionated, ill-informed mouthbreather who had his college paid for by mommy and daddy. How about doing something worthwhile with your life instead of spouting off about things you know jack sh– about? Come on over here and join the fun- hell, I’ll even let you drive my Bradley. Clown.

    Either way- your jibber-jabber is just that. Here’s one more phrase you ought to consider: pound sand, you ignorant creep. And, yes- I am personally well acquainted with what went on with everything here in Baghdad, just in case you wanted me to answer the how full of sh– am I question you’re asking yourself.

    I have my credentials… I’m posting this from a patrol base in the Rashid District of South Baghdad. Just what are your credentials, btw? Beyond being an arrogant, loud-mouthed fool, that is?

    Baghdad Bobby (33fcf4)

  30. The reaction to glasnost seems to be that Smith’s completely insane fabrications (which are, bluntly, further from any objective notion of truth than Beauchamp’s) are OK, because they are fake but inaccurate but only on a blog. Or something.

    Do any of you want to argue that if TNR had only put Beauchamp in its online verison, you’d be as nonchalant as you are with Smith?

    Andrew J. Lazarus (682086)

  31. National Review already has done something admirable in the Smith matter that TNR never did.

    It’s here: “And so I apologize to you, our readers.”

    And here: “So I’m grateful to the reporter who contacted Smith with questions.”

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  32. Andrew J Lazarus #30:

    Do any of you want to argue that if TNR had only put Beauchamp in its online verison, you’d be as nonchalant as you are with Smith?

    I hate to tell you this, AJL, but you’re channeling Michelle Malkin:

    As you read the explanation, ask yourselves this: If Thomas Beauchamp had written it instead of Thomas Smith, would you buy it?

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  33. Guess that set of talking points was of low quality, eh?

    SPQR (26be8b)

  34. Laz,

    1) Do the words “tu quoque” mean anything to you?

    2) Oh, that’s it for now, there’s no number 2. Except to note that, just as TNR could and should, the author and editor at NRO have addressed the issue, about as completely as could be wished.

    If TNR had done so, this could all have been different. At least you would have some ground to stand on, as opposed to hovering in space Wiley E. Coyote-style, suspended only by the refusal to look down into the abyss which awaits you.

    3) Oh yeah, and I guess if glasnost is the last Nip in the foxhole, you must be Martin Bormann in his South American hideout. Heil Foer!!!

    nichevo (1510ce)

  35. Furthermore, if K-Lo and Smith’s mea culpas don’t suffice, you have “intartubez wingnutz” like Malkin bearing further cudgels – in the interests of truth, not of Troof, nor of the right-wing solidarity/conformity you fantasize over.

    Where were the Kos types telling TNR, and the left blogosphere, that the modified limited hangout just wouldn’t do?

    Where the HuffComPosts worrying over the hit to credibility that would be sustained by all left-thinking people?

    Where the leftish Blackfives and Michael Tottens, with relevant and ongoing time onsite in the hot zone, scratching their heads and saying “Dogs cut in half by Bradleys? I’ve been north, east, west and south, and I haven’t seen any dogs being cut in half by Bradleys! Is this supposed to be satire or straight reporting?”

    nichevo (1510ce)

  36. It seems as if liberals were all issued the same National Review talking points to be used on whichever blogs were discussing the TNR/Beauchamp saga. The results have been as pathetic as they were here each place I’ve seen them deployed. I wonder what the new list is called. Wasn’t the old one called Townhouse or something?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  37. Given the lack of give-and-take, the nonresponsiveness, you really wonder whether it is human beings posting anymore, or just bots. Certainly there is no indication that any of these people (?) are reading anything posted here, either before or after their own posts, that might intrude on their worldviews.

    Literally, the NRO/Smith thing was asked and answered before that Lazarus ever posted. Or glasnost apparently. They think that anyone who is not on their side is an utter moron – sub-moronic – virtually incapable of recognizing food.

    But somehow this notion of superiority, intellectual and moral, never translates into taking the high road, introspection, humility, or taking responsibility for one’s own failings (or those of one’s own side) without trying to cloud the issue.

    I don’t care if Thomas Smith posted that Hez was eating babies lightly grilled on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, the truth or falsity of such an assertion has NOTHING TO DO with the heaping dose of FAIL in evidence at TNR. If, in this metaphor, TNR/glasnost/Laz had a mother, she would be saying, “So if all your friends (let alone your enemies!) threw their credibility off the Brooklyn Bridge, you should jump too?”

    TNR’s long-drawn-out bitterly contested begrudgingly conceded FAIL does not excuse, mitigate or justify Smith’s apparent FAIL. (This, the left will get.) The reverse is also true. (This, it seems, they won’t.)

    nichevo (1510ce)

  38. #31
    Lopez has been sitting on this information for six weeks and only made a move when HuffPo reported it. In addition Smith is a paid blogger.
    She says:
    “But rereading some of the posts (see “The Tank” for more detail) and after doing a thorough investigation of some of the points made in some of those posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that NRO should have provided readers with more context and caveats in some posts from Lebanon this fall. And so I apologize to you, our readers.”
    Is that what NRO calls lying now days? Please!

    The story doesn’t have a slant that sullies the dreaded left therefore it gets nothing but crickets in the right wing blogosphere nor do I expect it to.
    You can expect the comments on the leftwing blogs to be just as unforgiving, unfair and slanted as those rightwing blogs were in regards to Beauchamp.

    Malkin is “dancing with the stars” with her characterization of the NRO issue as
    “We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. But these were not small mistakes. They were XXL ones.” Quite a difference in tone in her description of Beauchamp’s accounts as “bullcrap”.

    Both the TNR and NRO stories show very nicely why the blogosphere will never be the paragon of truth that its bloggers tout it as. Most are biased to their own ideology and strive to draw readers of the same opinion. There is a risk of losing readers if the host “steps outside of the box”.
    Objectivity is simply a missing commodity at 99% of the political blogs.

    I realize the following comes from the LATimes but it makes good points we would all be wise to consider.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-skube19aug19,0,3547019.story

    “There was something appealing about this argument — one that no blogger would reject — when Lasch advanced it almost two decades ago. But now we have the opportunity to witness it in practice, thanks to the blogosphere, and the results are less than satisfying. One gets the uneasy sense that the blogosphere is a potpourri of opinion and little more. The opinions are occasionally informed, often tiresomely cranky and never in doubt. Skepticism, restraint, a willingness to suspect judgment and to put oneself in the background — these would not seem to be a blogger’s trademarks.”

    voiceofreason (4c736c)

  39. VOR,

    You chose a hilariously error-filled column on blogs for your quote. (emphasis mine)

    Josh Marshall reads his name in Skube’s column. Strange, because Marshall’s blog isn’t representative of the charges, which are depressingly familiar. “The blogosphere is a potpourri of opinion and little more,” Skube wrote. But there’s a lot more than bubbling opinion at Marshall’s bustling site, which includes TPM Muckraker, where two full-time investigative reporters work. Had the author ever seen it?

    In an email exchange, the author tells Marshall, “I didn’t put your name into the piece and haven’t spent any time on your site.” Huh? Turns out an editor stuck Marshall’s name in there because the column didn’t have enough examples in it. Skube agreed to the script change, but this meant he had no idea what his character was saying.

    And this was written by a journalism professor!

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  40. #38 – VOR, ISTM you are getting more bloggy self-criticism of the Smith case on this one thread than the Beauchamp case did in the whole left blogosphere in the four-odd months it ran.

    But you’re not reading today, are you, you’re just writing. Score one for the bots.

    nichevo (1510ce)

  41. Push the button, Frank.

    Does this mean Reynolds is an MST3K fan? Awesome…

    CTD (7054d2)

  42. VOR – Do you have any evidence that Lopez sat on it for six weeks other than a copy of the e-mail Albritton claims he sent. That e-mail has some details, no offer to discuss, sounds snarky, and was sent to a general address at NRO. Is there any evidence Lopez ever saw it or that it wasn’t just dismissed as a crank criticism that winds up in blogs all the time? What is the evidence from the other journalist?

    The six week time frame sounds pretty week to me at this point, almost like paying attention to something lukasiak says.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  43. I’m relatively impressed with Michelle Malkin for pouncing on National Review, but I fail to see how National Review’s behavior differs from TNR’s regarding the alledged fabulism on both counts.

    The problem in both cases is that neither magazine can be sure that the stories are false. If anyone, at any point, had genuinely proved anything, retractions would have followed. Instead what we had was a food fight over whose witnesses and expert testimonials were better than who’s.

    The difference in National Review’s case is that while we don’t know for sure what happened in Lebanon, we know that the guy presented second-hand stories as if he witnessed them personally, because he’s admitted it and described, without institutional coercion, how his actual reporting procedure and what he actually witnessed diverged from what he wrote. Scott Beauchamp’s already been ‘fired’, but The Tank is still merrily blogging away.

    glasnost (c83ef1)

  44. Anyone who is really paying attention can tell the difference, glasnost. Its obvious that you are not making a serious comment.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  45. VOR – In her first comment on the matter, Lopez specifically said she has not known about the problems with the stories for six weeks as some have said. If you don’t believe her, that is another matter.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  46. CTD, I knew Hodgson back before he went off on his own to do magic and design toys. I like MST3K, too.

    As far as this food fight, the libs refuse to admit that they have bought into a false story. If it hurts a Republican Administration, the left buys into it to the point they can’t admit any error or falsehood.

    Do any of you boobs on the left remember the WaPost had to give back a Pulitizer because the “reporter” made up a story that tried to give the Reagan Admin. a black eye? No, I suppose VOR and glasnost have excuses for that one, too.

    PCD (09d6a8)


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