October 26, 2007

TNR Speaks

Franklin Foer has come out from underneath the Cone of Silence at The New Republic long enough to tell everyone that he still has nothing much to say about TNR's collapsing credibility regarding their Baghdad Diarist, Scott Beauchamp. Claiming that the Army has impeded their investigation and leaked information to make them look bad, Foer still can't explain why his magazine published the allegations without doing this kind of investigation first:

Since our last statement on “Shock Troops,” a Diarist by Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp that we published in our July 23 issue, we have continued our investigation into the article’s veracity. On Wednesday, for a brief period, The Drudge Report posted several documents from the Army’s own investigation into Beauchamp’s claims. Among those documents was a transcript of a phone conversation that TNR Editor Franklin Foer and TNR Executive Editor J. Peter Scoblic had with Beauchamp on September 6—the first time the Army had granted TNR permission to speak with Beauchamp since it cut off outside contact with him on July 26. During this conversation, Beauchamp refused to discuss his article at all: “I’m not going to talk to anyone about anything,” he said. In light of that phone call, some have asked why The New Republic has not retracted “Shock Troops.”

The answer is simple: Since this controversy began, The New Republic’s sole objective has been to uncover the truth. As Scoblic said during the September 6 conversation: “[A]ll we want out of this, and the only way that it is going to end, is if we have the truth. And if it’s—if it’s certain parts of the story are bullshit, then we’ll end that way. If it’s proven to be true, it will end that way. But it’s only going to end with the truth.” The September 6 exchange was extremely frustrating; however, it was frustrating precisely because it did not add any new information to our investigation. Beauchamp’s refusal to defend himself certainly raised serious doubts. That said, Beauchamp’s words were being monitored: His squad leader was in the room as he spoke to us, as was a public affairs specialist, and it is now clear that the Army was recording the conversation for its files.

That's extremely disingenuous. His NCO actually back up TNR in the course of the conversation. When Foer demanded that Beauchamp cancel interviews with other members of the media (including Howard Kurtz), the squad leader told Beauchamp that he should agree to that out of respect for the position into which Beauchamp had put TNR. The sergeant didn't say much else to intimidate Beauchamp, but Foer certainly did. He implied that his wife's job was on the line if he recanted -- a message Beauchamp heard clearly (emphases mine):

Foer: Ellie [Elspeth Reeves, Beauchamp's wife] sent me an e-mail to tell you it's the most important thing in the world for her that you say that you didn't recant.

Beauchamp: To say what?

Foer: I think, I don't wanna ... You're obviously in a very uncomfortable position in that your wife is involved in this, and I wish she wasn't involved because I, I ... trust her, I care for her, I don't want her to get hurt in all of this. But, she just sent me a note to tell you that it's the most important thing to her that you say you didn't recant. And I don't ... I feel that (unintelligible) in saying that to you because it puts me in an awkward position, but it's what she wanted me to convey to you.

Beauchamp got the message: his wife's future was on the line, and it was more important to her than Beauchamp and the truth. That's known as the hard sell. If his wife felt that way, why didn't she just communicate that to Beauchamp directly?

Foer then goes on to claim that the Army's investigation was incomplete because it didn't interview twelve soldiers in Beauchamp's platoon. They did interview 13 soldiers in the unit, however, who have signed sworn statements refuting Beauchamp's allegations. I'm certain that the Army hasn't interviewed every injured woman who was stationed in Iraq -- oops, sorry, Kuwait! -- but that's not really a necessity. Foer also never addresses the allegation by his own source about the manuevering capabilities of the personnel carrier that TNR misrepresented his opinion about the vehicle, and his conclusion that the vehicle almost certainly could not have operated as Beauchamp described.

Foer says, "The New Republic is deeply frustrated by the Army’s behavior." The rest of us feel the same way about TNR. Instead of conducting some editorial control before running these pieces, TNR acted like The National Enquirer and ran unsubstantiated gossip. Instead of trying to determine whether Beauchamp needed to recant, Foer intimidated him into silence. And instead of admitting its errors and apologizing, TNR instead blames the Army it libeled for not being friendly and cooperative.

The joke continues at TNR. Michelle Malkin has more thoughts.

UPDATE: Bob Owens responds.

UPDATE II: Exurban League provides a colorful description of how low TNR has dug itself, and how much farther they may go.


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Comments (22)

Posted by Carol Herman | October 26, 2007 12:53 PM

Even on board the Titanic, after it hit the iceberg, there were some survivors. Yeah. The water was cold! And, it's not "luxury travel" on board a life raft, either. But it's nice to stay alive.

Or, to paraphrase Winston Churchill: It's nice, when someone shoots at you, that the bullet zings by, and misses. He said this was EXHILARATING.

Foer's premise is that TNR's hands were tied. They could spiel out what the army was saying; but from Beauchamp? Nada.


Michael Yon shows up with a compliment tossed out (by the army!), about how Beauchamp, who could have been discharged, (to follow his Hemingway-esk career. OR? Jon Cary's tract record), actually made the decision to STAY. And, to go out on risky assignments with others in his outfit. Are the army men, in charge of PR, pro's? Or what!

For what it's worth. TNR has fired Elspeth Reeves. And, they've plastered over the holes in Beauchamp's story, with the "fact" that they tried to get Beauchamp, himself, to retract the stories AT the magazine. That printed them. To no avail.

Is journalism a club?

Yes. It is.

Similar to Skulls & Bones? You know. Where even if you go to Yale, you're not let "in." To get "in" you have to be a member of the scion's club.

And, the club of journalism? It is protecting one of its own. "Their member, Foer."

How come Beauchamp never just told Foer to go fly a kite? Or, why didn't Foer figure out that Beauchamp was NEVER going to come clean, about those articles! As long as Foer allows Beauchamp to "obfuscate" ... look how this story keeps having its legs.

Up ahead? Well, Beauchamp is the one who could get stuck. Because whatever words he says "publicly" about his stories ... Foer can honestly claim were never put in front of the magazine. What was so hard about that?

You know what I think? Beauchamp is playing this thing for all its worth! For a young kid out of journalism school; I don't know if he's gonna hit the "Hemingway" stature. But as a con artist? WOW. This kid's got the world figured out.

Sure. Foer's got "his side of the story."

Unfortunately, TNR is the Titanic. It's reputation is getting busted up.

While the members of the exclusive club, just go about talking to one another. Pretty sure that the blogosphere ain't mainstreet.

OH, we're not in Vietnam, either!

Back then? There was a popular song that asked:

Why are we in Vietnam?

I don't give a damn.

Give me an "F" ...

OH, yeah. And, kids used to call cops "pigs."

Since then? Police departments got a lot smarter. They really train their officers, now.

Ditto, the army.

If this was a test. Pass/fail. Media's lost it. And, you haven't even seen the army's PR machine hand's moving. I call that STYLE!

Posted by Swede | October 26, 2007 1:29 PM

Bad news does not get better with time.

Somebody should nail that to his forehead.

Posted by Carol Herman | October 26, 2007 2:22 PM

Oddly enough, even a fighter in the ring, who becomes a punching bag for a heavyweight champ; as long as he stands there. And, doesn't fall down. Is not called "out."

So far, round after round, Foer is still standing there.

Isn't it the US Army that's pounding him?

According to TNR, they're the ones, who in good faith, "only wanted to talk directly to Beauchamp." The Army had the power to keep Beauchamp away.

Even in the information released on Drudge; where some of it did get pulled off; no one knows how Drudge got this "source." And, the one document where you actually HEAR Foer and Scobie talking ... is a recorded phone conversation they had; while Beauchamp had the US Army monitoring the phone call. And, then, later, producing a transcript.

Sure. And, then the Michael Yon piece. (Seems like the military; when it wants to; knows how to get its messages aout.) Beauchamp, we are told, has opted to stay in the military. And, he has "no interest in persuing this story any further."

Nor does he have any intention of asking the oft-repeated question from TNR; does he stand behind his "storm trufers" events? Did they happen in the real world? Or only the parallel universe of Beauchamp's mind?

Oh. And, TNR fired Elspeth Reeves. But this fact does not come out. On either side. She just "flew off." It seems. While Beauchamp is now playing "risky games" going out with his unit. On patrol. As if any one of us would like to be in the armpit of Baghdad. NOT.

Foer hasn't folded. Perhaps, the Asper Family, in looking at the damage to TNR, notices that he's staked out ONE POSITION. And, he's standing firmly on it.

There's been no knockout blows.

Oh. And, we're not in Vietnam.

Bush's wife goes to the Saud's camp with ease. And, dons a burka. And, the mainstream USA? Just shrugs?

The blogs aren't mainstream.

The "event" is actually within the parameters of mainstream.

And, the press? They're not gonna give an inch, when it comes to validating blogs. That's just the way it is.

Now, in 1968, before the Internet; you'd be surprised how the "yoots" went wild. LBJ, seeing he couldn't win re-election, ran back to Texas. And, Nixon won. (On the promise that he'd pull the troops out of Vietnam.)

Popular song at the time? Held the lyrics: Why are we in Vietnam? I don't give a damn. And, give me an "F." Nixon in his second term, pulled the plug on the draft. Today's kids? Live in the safety of a cacccon. Well desscribed, accurately, today, by Peggy Noonan.

So, there ya go. Peggy Noonan comes to bat and produces readible material. Who knew?

Beauchamp? What if Foer knows what he has on his hands? What if he figures out if he just stays there; he wins. By default. Because he didn't fold. Didn't go down to the mat. Where you'd be counting to ten; to see if he survives. Or not.

The mainstream in America is hard to read.

They don't seem to like hollywood movies, much, anymore.

They don't subscribe to magazines.

Many go to Drudge for news events.

And, even Glenn Reynolds knows that some of his links are more popular than others.

Only when you have put money on an outcome, in a race, does the race take on "excitement." Similar to a "one-arm-bandit." You can hear about 3-cherries. But until you drop your own nickel into the slot; do you really care?

Was Beauchamp's saga supposed to come up as "3-cherries" for the Net? How so? Where's the mainstream?

Why are people so quiet?

Laura Bush dons a burka. And, nobody says a word.

Bush plays with the saud's, to the point he's practically their Realtor. And, nobody says a word.

Ya know, if it was "all PR" Ulysses S. Grant would have no reputation. He really was torn apart by American hacks. And, idiots who couldn't tell apart the back of the line (at Corinth, for instance). And, what a great general he really was! Lucky, when someone told Lincoln to fire Grant; circa 1863. Lincoln thought about it. Was silent for an uncomfortable length of time. And, finally blew out his cheeks. Before releasing the air. And, then said. "I can't afford it. He fights.")

After the Civil War was over; and only because the British had a tradition of studying battlefields, after the fact (the way fire inspectors go in and look for the sources of fire) ... Did FULLER investigate Grant's battles, and spelled it out: Grant was phenominal as a general.

Lincoln? Perhaps he wasn't so sure; but he had good instincts.

I'm not a betting person. But Foer is still standing. Maybe? He understands the "salesman's rule." Where very few salesmen are good. Most couldn't close in selling you anything. But the "rule" goes like this: Once you CLOSE, you shut up.

The next person who talks ... loses. And, the CLOSER just passes the pen around for signatures.

Yeah. Foer is still standing. He's holding his position, too. It's a simple one: The US ARMY interfered with its investigatory responsibilities. And, until that's complete? The US Army is stuck. Believe what you want. But journalists who are worth their salt, do not take the government's word for it, as if its Hoyle.

Sure. The blogosphere has made sure this story continues to have legs.

But up that dress? Male or female parts, are still unknown.

Oh, I've also discovered in life, that "Bad news" gets better with time. And, following what your doctor suggests? Just for example. Arik Sharon, today, is a vegetable.

Taking advice from professionals can lead ya wrong. By the time a human becomes a vegetable, though, "bad" no longer matters.

Can Foer come out of this in better shape?

Sure. As long as he sticks to his guns.

Will he influence bloggers? You're kidding me. But that's just a segment of one market.

Not so easy, though, to figure out what makes a customer come into your store. And, then, what makes them buy from you. And, not Wal-Mart's.

It's an art and a half to make money convincing others about one's own position. I no longer even try.

Just one of the voices, out there. Where blogs are best when they voice all sorts of different opinions. If Foer is "bad," what do you make of Laura Bush donning a burka gift?

Posted by rbj | October 26, 2007 2:24 PM

I bet Foer was one of those annoying kids who always put his fingers in his ears and went "la la la la I can't hear you la la la la".

Posted by Exurban Jon | October 26, 2007 2:33 PM

We've created a helpful infographic showing how deep a hole Franklin Foer has dug for himself:

Posted by The Florida Masochist | October 26, 2007 2:39 PM

TNR screwed up, but the worse part of the whole Beauchamp affair is the editors refuse to admit it.

Lets put things in perspective too. TNR has a small readership and their influence is in proportion to its readership. This isn't the New York Times.

The diarist pieces aren't the main reason any one reads this magazine, and readers like myself pass them by all the time. I never read anything Beauchamp wrote till after the scandal hit. Beauchamp's writing got many more readers and attention than it ever would have thanks to the controversy.

TNR subscriber 1980-87 1993-present

PS- I've subscribed to the National Review almost as long.

Posted by Ray in Mpls | October 26, 2007 2:42 PM

"The answer is simple: Since this controversy began, The New Republic’s sole objective has been to uncover the truth."

If this were true, TNR would issue a statement that the "story" in question has not been verified and will be retracted until such verification is available. TNR has not done this. By refusing to retract an artcile they admit has not been verified, and by continuing to defend their insistence that an article which contains information that can not be verified must therefor be accurate, they admit that the "controversy" is of their own making and they refuse to acknowledge their culpability in this.

By refusing to acknowledge their own culpability, and by attempting to project that culpability onto others like the US Army through innuendo and supposition, TNR has proven itself to be just another rumor mill posing as a journalistic entity. They have lost credibility and that is not something they can easily regain.

TNR should bite the bullet on this and admit they screwed up, badly.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | October 26, 2007 2:53 PM

Must be TV day on the blogs for this story-Captain Ed calls TNR's hiding place "the cone of silenece", and over at Newsbusters they call it "the bat cave". I'm sure Don Adams and Adam West would approve.

Posted by RD | October 26, 2007 3:00 PM

Exurban John...there should be a warning by your graphic...Franklin Foer(left)...on a laugh scale of 1-10 I find that a 10. Let us know when he reaches China...I want to know if my mother was right about that.

Posted by Neo | October 26, 2007 3:13 PM

impeded their investigation and leaked information to make them look bad

Sounds like Foer doesn't like having the shoe on the other foot.

Posted by Exurban Jon | October 26, 2007 3:21 PM

Thanks RD! The digging should get faster for him in the chewy liquid center. Of course he'll need some sunscreen...

Posted by Neo | October 26, 2007 3:21 PM

Does this mean TNR will forego "leaks" in the future ?

Posted by daytrader | October 26, 2007 3:26 PM

Carol said

Michael Yon shows up with a compliment tossed out (by the army!), about how Beauchamp, who could have been discharged, (to follow his Hemingway-esk career. OR? Jon Cary's tract record), actually made the decision to STAY. And, to go out on risky assignments with others in his outfit. Are the army men, in charge of PR, pro's? Or what!

And then she said

Sure. And, then the Michael Yon piece. (Seems like the military; when it wants to; knows how to get its messages aout.) Beauchamp, we are told, has opted to stay in the military. And, he has "no interest in persuing this story any further."

If you think Michael would kow tow to or shill to the Army  , perhaps you need to check your premise before you state your confusion.

Posted by whippoorwill | October 26, 2007 4:43 PM

Hmmm... did mr. Dwudge make untrue statements bout the docs he posted. Where's the outrage--oh the humanity, the humanity of it all.

Posted by quickjustice | October 26, 2007 4:43 PM

I'm surprised Foer said anything at all. He must be feeling some heat, and trying to buy more time. If he can stall long enough, he figures, maybe Beauchamp's lies, which TNR printed, will just go away.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | October 26, 2007 5:58 PM


You're exactly right. Foer is simply emulating his hero, Danny Rather, who along with Mary Mapes still insist their fake Texas Air National Guard documents are real.

The same thing happened last year when noted internet comedy site truthout.org got burned by Jason Leopold, who confidently reported the indictment of the evil Karl Rove. That never happened either, but over a year later they've never retracted the story. Leopold also promised to out his source if he got burned, but never did. Speculation is that his source was Mr. Valerie Plame.

Posted by Sean P | October 26, 2007 9:06 PM

You know what is ironic about all this? Back in 2002, when Foer was just a reporter for TNR, and a very hawkish, pro-Iraq war reporter at that, he wrote a scathing indictment of CNN's complicity in the Iraqi regime. That indictment was flatly denied by Eason Jordan, who accused Foer of dishonesty then, months later, Jordan admitted everything he swore was untrue. That didn't end his career right away, but it did set the stage for his downfall a couple of years later. Wasn't Foer paying attention?

Posted by quickjustice | October 27, 2007 6:53 AM

While dangling Beauchamp's wife's job over Beauchamp's head, Foer also claims the following:

"The next day, via his wife, we learned that Beauchamp did want to stand by his stories and wanted to communicate with us again. Two-and-a-half weeks later, Beauchamp telephoned Foer at home and, in an unmonitored conversation, told him that he continued to stand by every aspect of his story, except for the one inaccuracy he had previously admitted. He also told Foer that in the September 6 call he had spoken under duress, with the implicit threat that he would lose all the freedoms and privileges that his commanding officer had recently restored if he discussed the story with us."

So Beauchamp is double-talking the Army and Foer. What would he say if his wife's job weren't in jeopardy? Under these circumstances, I'd say that any "forgiveness" of Beauchamp is premature.

Posted by daytrader | October 27, 2007 8:06 AM

Foer needs to clear something up since he talks about potential consequences to the career of Ms. Beauchamp.

Via Bob Owens

A screen capture posted on mediabistro.com's FishbowlDC seems to indicate that TNR fact-checker and Beauchamp's wife Elspeth Reeve is also no longer with the beleaguered magazine.

Update: Patrick Gavin, who posted the Facebook entry noting that Reeve was no longer at The New Republic, has followed up on his original post, noting that Reeve has indeed left the magazine, but:

...not for any sinister reasons. Her year-long internship had expired and she is currently working as a research assistant for Mike Grunwald.

Reeve's first published story for TNR, "Patriot Act," was published May 3, 2006. Reeve was still on the Masthead in July of 2007, and according to Robert McGee, she was still employed at The New Republic when he was fired July 26 for revealing her marriage to Beauchamp, more than 14 months later.

Via a cached page of a google search of her past articles at TNR shows her last article to be dated 6/20/07.


Posted by daytrader | October 27, 2007 8:10 AM

It is also noted that she is no longer on the masthead at TNR.

Posted by Michael B. Combs | October 27, 2007 3:17 PM

For my two cents, the Shock Troops article by Private Beauchamp has marvelously detailed descriptions of the killing of two dogs by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The descriptions are so detailed in fact, that under scrutiny, they leave no room to believe Beauchamp's story. For example, the one dog was killed at slow speed, as it approached the right rear of the Bradley at a walk. Interestingly, the Bradley driver sits at the left front, with absolutely no view of the right rear area extending as far as to the horizon.

For more details and a picture illustrating this point and others, please go to http://strongasanoxandnearlyassmart.blogspot.com/2007/10/new-republic-is-blogger-road-kill.html

Posted by Carol Herman | October 27, 2007 5:49 PM

Day Trader, I think Foer has the better argument. That journalists don't have to kow-tow to the military PR machinery; to get to investigate stories.

I know, this has been lost.

And, yes, at first, when I read the Michael Yon piece I thought the military grabbed a voice that is in Irak, and where people listen when the links come his way.

InstaPundit supplied the link to his Beauchamp piece.

And, what I saw here, is that there were posters who were not molified by Yon's observation ... THAT SOMEONE HE DID NOT INTERVIEW ... had a commander who said "he's out risking his life on missions. When he could have gone home."


Why wasn't Yon given the chance to interview this up-and-coming hero? Isn't that what journalists do?

Haven't we spent enough time on how news was being manufactured on the left; by having "talking points" faxed to "anchors?"

What's the difference?

Irak's bill has surged to $3-trillion. We made any friends? You like anyone over there better than Bagdhad Bob?

Oddly enough I don't think TNR is the enemy. (I do think the house of saud, though, could apply! But Bush doesn't treat them like they were enemies.) Sometimes, the very rich throw parties; and we're just never welcome.

How will this all come out in the wash?

Foer's still employed.

There's a US Constitution.

Even if you try to paint a picture that every journalist is a criminal; I think you'd run into resistance. And, now? The media's not saying a word.

You know Foer said he'd retract the story AFTER he iterviews Beauchamp.

If you want to play a shell game. You take "57 sworn statements" ... which are a deep secret. And, then you shake the containers on the table. Which one has the pea?

Foer said NO to the PR manipulation.

I know, that's not clear as yet.

Well, back in 1918, the carnage on the front lines, did not make it to the news back home. Took a decade. Then? Ah. All Quiet on The Western Front got published. 1928.

And, Americans became isolationists!

Did FDR see the european storm rising? Yup. Did he hold back? Yup. I can show you how. FDR was first elected to the presidency in 1932. The country was deep into the Great Depression.

On December 9, 1941 ... (I THINK! Remember, I'm lousy with dates.) FDR went to Congress. Stood in the Well. And, gave his speech: THIS IS THE DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY !

How long after the war drums started to play?

FDR knew the public's mood. He knew when to fight. And, when to hold back. Goodness, where do you want to start counting his holding back? England declared war against hitler in 1939. (Again, you're better off checking out your own dates.) But Winston Churchill enters Parliament. And, wants to see America entering the fight.

1939. 1940. And, 1941. Because we had to gear up; we really don't enter the fight till the Spring of 1942. (Something like that.)

And, we follow Churchill's advice to start in Africa. I kid you not.

Today. We are in Irak. And, exhaustion is setting in.

If Ron Paul didn't have the topic of "irak" nobody would know his views.

That's okay. I'm the only one who thinks Bush is a drag on the republican ticket. And, Larry Craig IS gay!

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