Special Report

Stuck in the Mud for Good

The New Republic could have done the right thing. Now it's too late.

By 10.25.07

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The Scott Beauchamp affair -- the background on which you can find here -- reached a new climax Wednesday when the Drudge Report published some fascinating documents. (All of them are in .pdf format, and were downloaded and saved before the Drudge Report took them offline for unknown reasons.) One of them was an Army memo confirming what we already knew -- that the Army's investigation has concluded that the New Republic published falsehoods under Beauchamp's pseudonym, "Scott Thomas." The other is a transcript in two parts (part 1, part 2) of a September 7 phone call involving Frank Foer and Peter Scoblic, TNR's Editor and Executive Editor, respectively. It would be hard to overstate how embarrassing this transcript must be to TNR.

The conclusion of the conversation involves Foer and Scoblic convincing Beauchamp that he mustn't talk to other media outlets before talking to them. But the most damning passages come in part 1 of the transcript:

Scoblic: (unintelligible) Are you standing by your story then?

Beauchamp: I'm not talking about it all. I'm not commenting on it at all anymore. Or any of my military experiences.

Scoblic: Look, Scott- I need... We are not another media outlet. You can't look at the New Republic which, you know, published these stories as "just another set of reporters" that's beating down your door. The editor has placed a great deal of trust in you. You know, I've watched this over the last month...I've been part of it myself to some extent. They've displayed a considerable integrity in standing by you and supporting you publicly. I know things have been insane there, certainly with regard to this. They've been pretty insane here, too. And, among other things, you know, Frank has been...Frank and his reputation have been dragged through the mud. In a lot of ways, the magazine's reputation has been dragged through the mud. And, all through that, we have sort of... we have said: We are not going to throw an author overboard just because someone has raised questions. I mean, we have... we have defended you. And, all we want out of this, and the only way that it is going to end if we have the truth. [...]

[...]

Foer: Okay- we're going to have to discuss the implications of this of this last column. But (unintelligible) I think this raises the possibility that if you're not able to talk about this and able to stand by your story, I'm not sure we'll be able to stand by it. So...

Scoblic: I think Scott, what this is, you know, is that we're going to have to come out to say that...because you know, you're not going to talk to us anymore about the piece we just can't, in good conscience, continue to defend it. And so the way it ends is that there's going to be another round of stories and the story is going to be that an author lied to his editors. And they decided that they can't trust him anymore.

Beauchamp: Well...I mean, I understand it could be spun that way, but it could be interpreted in any way, and it's going to be interpreted in any way that it was going to be interpreted... I mean, that's...that's...

Scoblic: It's not going to be, Scott. It's going to be interpreted (unintelligible)

And later:

Foer: Okay. I (unintelligible) Basically, we need some sort of sign in good faith on your part and that would be the bare minimum at this point to prevent us from fully retracting.

Scoblic: I mean, let me ask you Scott- do you care if we fully retract not only this piece, but the previous ones?

Beauchamp: Right now, like I said before all I really care about is the job I'm doing here. I really don't care about the media at all at this point. I'm sorry.

This transcript apparently came from the Army Public Affairs Officer who was on Beauchamp's end of the call. On the TNR end, they may not have known that a transcript would be made, and almost certainly didn't expect it to come out publicly.

So where does this leave TNR? We have their Executive Editor saying "we just can't, in good conscience, continue to defend" Beauchamp's work, and that until they have the truth they can't let it drop. We have Beauchamp saying that he doesn't care one way or another whether they retract his pieces. So why didn't they retract them? TNR's behavior since September 7 has amounted to pretending that this conversation never happened, that the veracity of Beauchamp's articles is still undetermined, and that they have no ethical obligation to retract. But it did, it isn't, and they do.

TAS has left messages for Frank Foer and Peter Scoblic requesting comment. They have not, as of this writing, returned our phone calls.

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About the Author

John Tabin is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator online.