Drudge vs. TNR: Early Wednesday afternoon, the Drudge Report posted a red-letter item about the controversy surrounding the New Republic’s “Baghdad Diarist,” Scott Beauchamp. Beauchamp is a soldier serving in Iraq whose dispatches telling of outrageous behavior by U.S. troops—belittling a woman scarred by an IED, wearing a skull fragment from the remains of a child found in one of Saddam’s mass graves, and intentionally trying to kill dogs with armored vehicles—came under intense scrutiny from conservative bloggers over the summer. TNR issued a statement on Aug. 10 saying it was investigating the veracity of the reports but hasn’t commented since.
Drudge, promising to reveal that TNR’s ” ‘SHOCK TROOPS’ STORY COLLAPSES,” originally posted three PDF files, the first two of which consisted of a transcript of a phone conversation from Sept. 7 involving Beauchamp, TNR Editor in Chief Franklin Foer, TNR Executive Editor Peter Scoblic, and others. In it, Beauchamp at first refused to cooperate with TNR to help defend the veracity of his articles, saying that he just wanted the whole affair to go away, despite being told that TNR couldn’t defend his reporting if he didn’t defend it himself.
The final PDF contains what appear to be official Army memoranda—and a document signed by Beauchamp acknowledging that he’d received a “Memorandum of Concern” from the Army. (Is this a confession by Beauchamp? At the National Review’s Corner, a lawyer says no.)
Conservative bloggers ate it up, pouncing on details such as a part of the transcript in which Foer tells Beauchamp that Beauchamp’s wife, a fact-checker for the magazine, sent Foer an e-mail telling him she does not want her husband to recant his work. Instapundit offered his usual bevy of links and added: “I notice that Peter Scoblic of TNR seems awfully anxious to make sure that the record reflects his non-involvement with the decision to publish the Beauchamp piece.”
Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters concluded: “[The TNR editors] have lost the last shred of journalistic integrity they could claim. Until August 10th, they could make a claim that they had been victimized by a fabulist. This transcript shows that they participated willingly in the cover-up.”
Conservative Ace of Spades took a timeout from schadenfraude to consider the consequences for TNR: “Even the NYT, when confronted with the much less important fabulations of Jayson Blair, stepped up and conducted a full internal investigation and released all the facts – good, bad, and ugly – to the world. TNR, on the other hand, chose to stonewall, obfuscate, and lie. … Heads rolled at the NYT. Heads must roll now.”
Then things got weird. At 3:47 p.m., Kathyrn Jean Lopez at the National Review’s Corner informed readers: “We’re hearing from The New Republic that the Drudge story isn’t the damning evidence it suggests to be … stay tuned.” And by 4 p.m., Drudge removed the story from the home page—while keeping the URL of it live—and pulled down PDFs. Lopez posted a revealing update at 5:05 p.m. “I’ve talked to Jonathan Chait at TNR and he doesn’t dispute the accuracy of the documents but he does dispute the analysis that was on Drudge,” she writes.
At Hot Air, conservative Allahpundit was all over the story from the get-go. After reading Lopez’s 5:05 p.m. post at the Corner, he concludes: “Fair enough; it’s true that Beauchamp doesn’t admit to anything. It’s one, long 16-page ‘no comment’ with Frank Foer and Peter Scoblic and, by extension, Beauchamp’s own wife begging him not to recant. Draw your own conclusions.” And however right or wrong Drudge was, righty Michelle Malkin is still mad at TNR: “To paraphrase the Clintons: It’s the cover-up, stupid. And TNR’s sliming of The Weekly Standard. And TNR’s false allegations that the military was censoring Beauchamp. And TNR’s pathetic attempts to wrest control of the story from Beauchamp as he attempted to tell other media outlets that he was not being gagged, use Beauchamp’s wife as a wedge, and refusal to acknowledge the truth of their journalistic malpractice. Get it?”
Michael Goldfarb, who was among the first to question the veracity of Beauchamp’s work for TNR at the Weekly Standard’s Worldwide Standard blog, now writes: “The documents posted by Drudge reveal that the New Republic’s editors have known for several weeks that the central anecdote of the story was untrue, that the other anecdotes were deeply suspect, and that the author was no longer standing by his work. And yet they remained publicly silent even though they had long ago promised to be open and forthcoming on the matter.”
Even after Drudge pulled down the story, the above-mentioned Ace of Spades has some questions, starting with: “Why did the editors decide not to report on Beauchamp’s September 7 phone call, in which he steadfastly refused to re-affirm his stories, despite TNR’s pressure that without such re-affirmation they would be forced to retract?”
Finally, Gawker sums it up with a reasoned analysis: “Beauchamp comes off as a seriously callous guy who seems to think if you’re not fighting in Iraq, what you do isn’t particularly worthwhile, and this includes his wife’s career. If the magazine had come forward with how this asshole blew them off, we suspect they’d have garnered a decent amount of support. Instead, it now looks like they were just hoping everyone would forget about the whole thing.”