“We care a lot about our journalistic reputation and integrity, and when people raise questions, I think we have to do everything in our power to make sure we get it right,” said New Republic editor Franklin Foer, by phone this afternoon.
Since the Weekly Standard first questioned the accuracy of a TNR column written by then pseudonymous soldier “Scott Thomas” two weeks ago, the milblogger community and conservative media outlets have gone on the offensive.
So TNR—always sensitive to such allegations, in the post-Stephen Glass era—launched an internal investigation to re-report the Baghdad Diarist column “Shock Troops,” written by Scott Thomas Beauchamp.
Today, the editors published a statement about their investigation, which included the following:
“In this process, TNR contacted dozens of people. Editors and staffers spoke numerous times with Beauchamp. We also spoke with current and former soldiers, forensic experts, and other journalists who have covered the war extensively. And we sought assistance from Army Public Affairs officers. Most important, we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp’s company, and all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)”
The magazine found only one error in the column: An anecdote regarding a woman disfigured by an I.E.D. took place in “Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit’s arrival in Iraq,” they wrote. Beauchamp acknowledged the error in his reporting.
Mr. Foer said, in an interview with The Observer shortly after the editors’ statement was published, that he had 4 to 5 staffers re-reporting Mr. Beauchamp’s account.
He said that the error in location was “an important mistake.” He later added: “If the rest of the piece hadn’t checked out, it would be extremely worrisome.”
What about the bloggers persistent coverage these past two weeks?
“There were questions whether this guy exists,” Mr. Foer said. “After we proved that to be false, they just went on to making the next reckless accusation.”
Of the Weekly Standard in particular, Mr. Foer said the magazine contacted him once, but he did not assist in their continued reporting because of “the reckless way they handled their investigation.”
And many questions were raised about the fact that Mr. Beauchamp is married to TNR reporter-researcher, Elspeth Reeve.
“There was moment where [bloggers] were looking into his wedding registry,” Mr. Foer said. “That just strikes me as going pretty far beyond the bounds of responsible inquiry.”
UPDATE: This post previously omitted that Mr. Foer said the Weekly Standard only contacted him “once.”