Patterico's Pontifications

10/29/2007

My Correspondence Thus Far with the L.A. Times’s Readers’ Representative Regarding Tim Rutten’s Laughably Error-Ridden Piece on the Beauchamp Affair

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 8:53 pm

The e-mails speak for themselves. But they are worth reading. I promise.

My initial e-mail:

Jamie,

Tim Rutten writes in today’s column:

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.

An Army spokesman denied the existence of the statement on August 7.

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/08/07/tnr-challenges-weekly-standards-claim-that-beauchamp-has-recanted/

Since then, the magazine has been able to communicate with Beauchamp three times, by the editors’ own admission.

http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2007/10/26/a-scott-beauchamp-update.aspx

This is a fairly basic error that calls into question Rutten’s grasp of the facts on this controversy. I think a correction is order.

Patrick Frey

She responded with this:

Thanks for your inquiry, but I’m not sure that I’m clear on what you are asking: You say that the column erred because “the magazine has been able to communicate with Beauchamp three times, by the editors’ own admission.” The column itself not only refers to those communications, but cites New Republic sources that detail those communications.

Or am I misunderstanding your point?

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

I responded:

Jamie,

My point is this. Rutten’s column contained this line:

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

And that line is factually false.

That is my point.

The proof is in my previous e-mail. The “then” in the phrase “Since then” is August 7 — the date that the military spokesman denied the existence of a Beauchamp disavowal. “Since then,” the magazine has been able to communicate with Beauchamp, on no fewer than three separate occasions.

You appear to contend that Rutten’s false claim does not merit a correction, because Rutten disclosed one (not all) of those communications in his column — namely, Beauchamp’s conference call with TNR editors. However, a) the phrase as written is still false, and b) it is also misleading, as Rutten did not make it clear that the communication in question took place after the spokesman’s denial, for which Rutten provided no date.

Perhaps an analogy will make the point clearer. Let’s pretend that I write a blog post in which I say this:

Since John Carroll’s departure from the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper has been unable to win a Pulitzer Prize.

If, later in my post, I make a reference to the paper’s 2007 Pulitzer, that doesn’t render my claim accurate. The claim is still false.

Nor would including information about the 2007 Pulitzer necessarily prevent readers from being misled. After all, a reader unfamiliar with the tenure of the L.A. Times‘s past editors might not know that Carroll left well before 2007. (Just as the reader of Rutten’s column might not know that the military spokesman made the referenced denial on August 7 — a fact that Rutten does not state in his piece.)

Your contention appears to be that a false claim can somehow be transformed into a true one, if the writer includes some (but not all) information that tends to show the claim is false. This is logically untenable.

If I have caused your eyes to glaze over, then simply go back and re-read the first four short lines of this e-mail. My point is succinctly and accurately stated there. The rest of this e-mail is nothing more than a clarification and explanation of that simple point.

Please let me know if The Times plans to issue a correction.

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey
http://patterico.com

P.S. I have four more factual errors from the same Rutten column to tell you about. I’ll write a separate e-mail about them. This e-mail is already long enough.

And my most recent e-mail:

Jamie,

As promised, here is my e-mail setting forth four other factual inaccuracies in Tim Rutten’s recent column on the Beauchamp affair.

1) Rutten wrote that “the magazine determined that the incident involving the disfigured woman was concocted and corrected that . . .”

That is 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.”

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

That is false.

The woman has never been described as Iraqi.

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

That is false — or, at a minimum, materially misleading.

Beauchamp described far more than “attempts” to run over stray dogs with Bradley fighting vehicles. Beauchamp alleged at least three actual killings of dogs — which caused many bloggers to question whether such killings were possible. (Such questions were bolstered by statements made by a spokesman for the manufacturer.)

4) Rutten said:

It was interesting to note that Drudge provided links to the transcripts and report but not to the purported “Memorandum for Record.”

That is false.

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, go here:

http://www2.nationalreview.com/dest/2007/10/24/2.pdf

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.

That’s four more verifiable inaccuracies in Rutten’s column, bringing the total to five.

I await your response.

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey
http://patterico.com

As always, when I hear something, you’ll hear something.

P.S. I have copied Rutten on every e-mail. So he is fully aware of the errors I am describing.

6 Responses to “My Correspondence Thus Far with the L.A. Times’s Readers’ Representative Regarding Tim Rutten’s Laughably Error-Ridden Piece on the Beauchamp Affair”

  1. Patrick

    Rutten’s most grievous errors are found in not carefully reading Beauchamp’s stories before defending them and the complicit editors at The New Republic. It is bad enough that Rutten reported the killings Beauchamp described as “attempts.” However, if he had just Googled “Bradley Fighting Vehicle” as a minimum, he would have seen that there is no way the dogs could have been killed as described by Beauchamp, or for that matter, that Beauchamp could even have observed their deaths.
    Rather than fighting over the details of “when what documents were displayed or whatever” by Drudge, I would be interested in your trolls’ comments about how Rutten and the professional journalists at The New Republic missed the obvious lies in Beauchamp’s story.
    And that of course would lead me to challenge The New Republic’s assertions that they have statements from anonymous soldiers in Beauchamp’s unit confirming his implausible descriptions of the dog killings.
    Thanks for linking to my post. Here it is again for anyone interested in proof of Private Beauchamp’s lies, and of how simple it would have been for Mr. Rutten and The New Republic editors to recognize them.
    http://strongasanoxandnearlyassmart.blogspot.com/2007/10/la-times-joins-new-republic-in.html

    Major Mike (d9f8f4)

  2. I think the other errors are more notable. You are technically correct, that there is an error of the sort that you describe at first (created by the poor writing used).

    TCO (79dafb)

  3. All that has happened began when The New Republic chose to publish Beauchamp’s lies as true tales of Army atrocities in Iraq. How could highly trained professional journalists allow themselves to promote such drivel in their influential national magazine?
    A coarse military saying goes, “Don’t shit in your mess kit.”
    The New Republic editors and the LA Times’ Tim Rutten better not ask “What’s for dinner?”

    Major Mike (d9f8f4)

  4. Ya know iffin I ran any sort of rag, especially iffin I desired others to take it seriously, I’d put a hold on the article, ask the author, check and verify his information, then call the wipe the lying wipe that he is.

    Da boy is either lying, of writing fiction, which was not disclosed in his words at all. So he is nuttin but a gotdaum liar!

    Applaud him for being such and let him live with it! But as well make fer daaum sure your readers knows that he but such as well!

    That will clip his future performances long before they ever appear.

    I thought I said as much earlier, Oh I did!

    ANYTHING from Scott Beauchamp should be labeled as “FICTION by SB, witch rhymes with SumBitch! Err Lyin Sumabitch!

    TC (1cf350)

  5. I have written the LA times twice and always gotten snotty, snide replies from their “reader” rep. I would not want them representing my company… This story is just downright bias… as is most of the crap from the LA Times. It’s not that they make mistakes, everyone does… it’s that when they do, they fail to correct them. Leads me to believe they weren’t “mistakes”.

    Have you seen the story from Michael Yon on this subject… he was at Beauchamp’s unit recently and met with his BC… who offered (w/o being asked) to let him interview him. He also seemed very protective of his soldier. Hardly being “cut off” or “squeezed”….

    The Beauchamp part of the story is so done… I knew it was bogus from day one… the real story is the ducking and weaving from TNR and the media/progressive media/blogs laying down cover fire for their failed attack on the military. Beauchamp is out there every day fighting a war… and right next to those whom he slandered most. That at least takes guts… meanwhile TNR *spit* hides, spins, and goes back into hiding. TNR is a bunch of cowards with no honor. The media that covers for them because it fits their agenda are worse…

    BadBrad (67f0f4)

  6. Calling anyone at the TNR “professionals” is incorrect. To call editors and writers of TNR and/or the LAT is incorrect also!!

    Sue (5c1e09)


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