Re: The “Scott Thomas” Saga at TNR Continues
According to Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard, Scott Thomas Beauchamp has recanted his controversial New Republic articles concerning the conduct of American troops in Iraq…
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned from a military source close to the investigation that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp–author of the much-disputed “Shock Troops” article in the New Republic’s July 23 issue as well as two previous “Baghdad Diarist” columns–signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods–fabrications containing only “a smidgen of truth,” in the words of our source….Instapundit has a complete round-up here.
According to the military source, Beauchamp’s recantation was volunteered on the first day of the military’s investigation. So as Beauchamp was in Iraq signing an affidavit denying the truth of his stories, the New Republic was publishing a statement from him on its website on July 26, in which Beauchamp said, “I’m willing to stand by the entirety of my articles for the New Republic using my real name.”
The New Republic wanted it all ways. On the one hand, they were happy to print a sensational story that would attract readers and publicity. At the same time, they could keep responsibility for the story at arms length by saying, “it’s a first hand account”.
I just don’t think it can work that way, especially for something as important as a military action … and our troops.
Seems there’s probably still more to come on this. The New York Times is reporting tommorow (Aug 8) that Maj. Steven F. Lamb, a public affairs officer for the Army, stated that Beauchamp’s stories were false, but he has “no knowledge” of any signed statement recanting the stories and, “If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own.”
The spokesman said no member of Beauchamp’s company could corroborate his stories, but the New Republic is still saying that five members of his unit did so.
For the record, after being informed of Major Lamb’s statement, Michael Goldfarb (and the Weekly Standard, by appropriate association) are standing by their story that Beauchamp has recanted under oath…
TNR reported last week that they could no longer reach Beauchamp. The Washington Post reports the Army took away Beauchamp’s cellphone and laptop. Thus, I’m also not surprised that TRN isn’t contradicting the story. Goldfarb knows this, so his comment is, to put it politely, hard to take very seriously.
Maybe TNR never will deny that Beauchamp recanted. Maybe the WS story is true, and he did so. Maybe not. Frankly, I haven’t the faintest idea. Nor does anybody reading this.
What I do know is that TNR has an interest in maintaining that Beauchamp’s stories were true. The Army has an interest in maintaining they aren’t. Goldfarb (and by implication the Weekly Standard) clearly has an ax to grind.
At this point, I would not take anything the involved persons and organizations say at face value, nor would I report their claims without appropriate caveats.
It’s sad that many liberals rushed to believe Beuchamp as if they WANTED to believe the accusations.
One obvious conclusion should be clear to all media editors. The vast majority of fake war crime claims have come from 18-25 year olds who made the claims because the were either unhappy with being in the military or were looking for attention.
The legitimate news stories seem to come from more mature members of the military. 60 Minutes broke the Abu Ghraib story only after a retired colonel passed along the information, even though all the participants were younger.
That’s not to say that all claims by 18-25 year olds are false, but publishing such claims without further proof is the equivalent of publishing rumors. TNR was completely irresponsible to publish it.
I never read Beachamp’s stories until after they were called into question. I am tyring to have an open mind about this and to figure out what is really going on. I think it’s not easy.
You say, ” publishing such claims without further proof is the equivalent of publishing rumors. TNR was completely irresponsible to publish it.”
It seems more complicated than that to me. TNR says they did corroborate the accounts with other servicemen. I’d be interested to know whether you would make the same statement after reading what TNR has to say about their efforts to document Beauchamp’s claims at:
Meanwhile, the Army spokesman says the matter is closed and there will be no punishment other than taking away Beauchamp’s means of communication. I’m pretty surprised by this, aren’t you? I would have thought he would get much harsher treatment. I guess we’ll find out why when the Army releases its report. I hope so, anyway. Otherwise, people will start saying that Beauchamp never actually recanted or, if he did, it was only because he was promised a walk if he recanted, and severe punishment if he stuck to his story. Without the report, we’ll only have the Weekly Standard’s anonymous source, and this will never end. Unless of course Beauchamp admits publicly that he fabricated material.
TNR says it has corroborated the accounts with other servicemen, but the first time around, they missed the fact that STB wasn’t even in Iraq when one of his stories supposedly occurred. Can their fact-checking have gotten that much better in just 2 weeks?
And though you’re right that TNR and TWS are both opinion publications, the fact that TNR seems to have some very loose journalistic standards doesn’t mean it’s fair to tar every opinion magazine with the same brush.
Yes, apparently the incident of mocking the disfigured woman in the mess (in which Beauchamp himself apparently participated)) took place in Kuwait, not Iraq. That is indeed a serious inaccuracy. Other than that, however, TNR maintains the stories have been corroborated. However, the servicepeople who did the corroborating remain anonymous.
TWS has claimed that STB recanted. This is also based on an anonymous report (that the Army won’t confirm, at least as present).
TWS takes TNR to task for not reporting that the Army investigation found STB’s stories to be false. OK, but TWS has not yet reported that an official Army spokesman denies any knowledge of STB’s having recanted.
TWS says, “Beauchamp has recanted under oath. Does the New Republic still stand by his stories?” TNR can legitimately say “The Army has officially denied any knowledge of Beauchamp recanting. Does TWS still stand by it’s story?”
I say, Pot, Kettle, Black.
At this point, in my mind, the score is still zero to zero. If the TWS’s anonymous report on the recanting is confirmed, I’ll gladly accept that. Until then, it’s TWS vs. the offical Army story. Which do you believe?
TWS says that Beauchamp’s stories are not true, and that Beauchamp himself has sworn to this.
The Army says that Beauchamp’s stories are not true, but is not giving out all the details on how it arrived at this conclusion.
TNR says it believes that most of Beauchamp’s stories are true.
As commenters in several forums around the internet have pointed out, there’s a much bigger gulf between TNR and the Army than there is between TWS and the Army at the moment.
It is correct that the Army is not giving out details (or much information at all as far as I can see) about how it arrived at its conclusion. I find that somewhat curious, but that wasn’t the point.
I was talking, instead, about the question of whether Beauchamp in fact recanted. On that question, at least for now, the gap between TWS and the Army is quite wide. According to TNR, Major Lamb (the Army spokesman) did not say that he was not ready to discuss details of the recanting. He said, instead, that he had “no knowledge” of any statement by Beauchamp recanting his story. That’s pretty clear.
Either Lamb is not telling the truth, he’s out of the loop on the investigation, or TWS’s anonymous informant is wrong. I don’t pretend to know which of these is actually the case, but my guess is that Lamb is telling the truth. I hope we’ll find out soon.
Oh, I suppose it’s also possible that TNR misrepresented Lamb’s comments, but I don’t think they’re that dumb, and Lamb would certainly contradict them immediately if they did.
However big the dispute over means between TWS and the Army may be, the dispute created by the fact that TNR is basically accusing the Army of lying/engaging in a cover-up — a dispute over fundamental conclusions — is bigger.
AP has a new story up on the subject today…
Ann Althouse points out that all of the alls in the above excerpt can’t possibly be true if everyone (reporters and primary sources) is telling the truth…
We’ll just have to see how it all shakes out to find out who, if anyone, is lying. But until TNR identifies the 5 soldiers it says confirmed Beauchamp’s report, and/or TWS identifies it’s anonymous source, and/or the Army releases it’s report (including the fact that they actually interviewed all of the members of the unit including the TRN 5), OR Beauchamp confirms that he recanted or that he lied in the first place, I guess I’m going to be skeptical of anyone who says they know the real story.
So, I’ll hold off further comment until one of those things happens.