The New Republic Tries to Come Clean on Beauchamp Scandal
It takes him fourteen pages, but Franklin Foer finally makes an admission regarding Scott Thomas Beauchamp's posts in The New Republic.
...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.
Foer's opus begins 13 pages earlier and attempts the impossible feat of justifying his editorial leadership at The New Republic from the lead up to the publication of Beauchamp's work to the retraction above. Through it all, Franklin Foer has made it painfully apparent that he is incapable of admitting his own ethical and editorial shortcomings, and refuses to answer many of the key questions that still hang over The New Republic like a gallows.
Foer's first admission is that Elspeth Reeve, Scott Beauchamp's wife, was indeed assigned by Foer to be the fact-checker for "Shock Troops" - a clear conflict of interest that Foer finally admits over four months after the fact. It was apparently a breach severe enough to merit new fact-checking rules at The New Republic.
Foer tells us of an anonymous soldiers claim that the story of the burned woman is true, but offers no specific evidence of this. So far no one has provided a name to identify her or offered any identifiable details about her.
Tellingly, no soldiers in other units who have been through Camp Blurring in Kuwait report they have seen her. Indeed, they and civilian contractors have denied her existence. It seems that no one stating these stories are true will comment on the record, with the exception of one man that Foer was forced to admit the "Army had removed him from Iraq on mental health grounds."
Foer continues to ignore the words of Major Renee D. Russo, the Kuwait-based officer who told TNR senior editor Jason Zengerle that the burned woman story was an urban myth or legend in early August.
Foer also does not really respond to remarks by "the spokesman for the manufacturer of Bradley Fighting Vehicles"
Choosing his words carefully, Foer states that "Nothing in our conversations with them had dissuaded us of the plausibility of Beauchamp's pieces." Foer, of course, said our conversations.
Foer still does not admit that TNR's questions to Doug Coffey, spokesman of BAE Systems, the Bradley manufacturer, were vague to the point of uselessness. Foer also refuses to release the names of the other anonymous experts, including a forensic anthropologist, he claims support the story. It seems he does not want these experts to discuss the quality of the interviews they conducted.
Perhaps keeping in line with the "it wasn't my fault" mindset driving his statement, Foer attacks many of those who required proof of Beauchamp's stories, from a snide and frankly irrelevant reference to one critic's past as an adult film star, to attacks upon other publications, and insinuations of a great, widespread conspiracy against him by the U.S. Army from the urban battlegrounds of Iraq to the FOIA offices in sunny Florida.
Here are the facts:
As editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer allowed Scott Thomas Beauchamp to publish three stories that were not competently fact-checked. At least one of those that was assigned to his wife to fact-check even though that was a clear conflict of interest. All three of those stories—not just"ShockTroops"— had significant "red flags" in them. These red flags range from the changing of a tire of a vehicle equipped with run-flat tires in "War Bonds," to several obvious and easily verifiable untrue statements, including the claim of a discovery of a kind of ammunition that do not exist, and absurd evidence for allegations of murder "Dead of Night" that could have been (and were) debunked in less than 30 seconds with a simple Google search.
The bottom line is that the Scott Beauchamp debacle was a test of editorial character for The New Republic under Franklin Foer's leadership. For over four months, the magazine has answered that challenge by hiding behind anonymous sources, making personal attacks against critics, asserting a a massive conspiracy against them, while covering up conflicting testimony and refusing to answer the hard questions.
Even to the end, Foer continues to blame everyone else for his continuing editorial failures., penning a fourteen-page excuse without a single, "I'm sorry."
The readers and staff deserve better, and it is past time for Franklin Foer to leave The New Republic.
Bob Owens has been covering the Beauchamp Scandal for Pajamas Media and the Confederate Yankee.