The Drudge Report has gone guns-out on The New Republic on how the magazine handled the controversy over a series of articles it ran by the anonymous "Baghdad Diarist." Documents posted on Drudge this afternoon (and then whisked off again just like that!), Drudge claimed, indicated that TNR "failed to publicly account for publishing slanderous falsehoods about the U.S. military in a time of war." The docs may or may not be damning evidence. But presuming they're not fakes—and the transcript is incredibly detailed, for certain—here's what they say.
Ostensibly written by an American soldier in Iraq, the "Baghdad Diarist" articles were unflattering and often brutal in their depictions of the war and the U.S. military. When the authenticity of the pieces was called into question over the summer, TNR stopped running 'Diarist"—the current website contains no trace of the articles, though they can be found in cached webpages. [Update: TNR has relaunched its website, and they say its search function is not working. (We can't make it work either!) You can find their statement on Beauchamp here; an update here; his own statement here.]
Eventually, Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an army private and husband of TNR reporter-researcher Elspeth Reeve, stepped forward as the author and the Army began an investigation. One of the documents obtained by Drudge is a fascinating transcript of a phone call between TNR editor Frank Foer, executive editor Peter Scoblic and Beauchamp himself, in which the soldier, in the presence of his squad leader and "a specialist," refuses to stand by his work and refuses to discuss it further with Foer and Scoblic.
"This whole thing, it's... it's... spun out of control and mutated into something that's... just insane... I'm not really going to discuss with any media outlet at all my military experiences past, present or future," the transcript has Beauchamp telling the editors. "And like, that would include anything I've written."
Scoblic's reaction is pretty much made for Hollywood (if Hollywood hadn't already been there, done that): "If it's certain parts of the story are bullshit, then we'll end it that way. If it's proven to be true it will end that way. But it's only going to end with the truth."
You tell 'em, Scoblic. Defending his editor, Scoblic says, "Frank and his reputation has 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."
Besides the final Army report, Drudge said that he was in possession of a copy of an affidavit signed by Beauchamp in which he admits to fabricating his stories, which, the document reads, contained "gross exaggerations and inaccurate allegations of misconduct" by his comrades. (That document, as far as we can tell, has not been made public yet.) [Update: The document in question may very well not exist, and this may be reference to an Army Memorandum For Record signed by Beauchamp in acknowledgment of receipt, not any kind of admission. There's also this correction: An article had said that "Beauchamp had signed a sworn statement that recanted the accounts in his three pseudonymous articles for The New Republic. He did not recant, but did not stand by his claims." (Emphasis ours.) We're not sure what that odd murky area between recanting and not standing by is, but there you have it.]
Yet another cinematic moment crops up when Foer tells Beauchamp he has just received an email from Reeves begging her husband not to recant his story. "I wish she wasn't involved in this," Foer says. "Because I, I... trust her, I care for her, I don't want her to get hurt in all of this."
Beauchamp, standup guy that he really isn't, says "I'm sorry if it's personally... if it hurts you or hurts my wife, which I know it will, then I'm really sorry. But, if I've learned anything from this, it's that this is her area and I'll stick to my area..."
Despite Scoblic's having told Beauchamp that without his talking to them about the piece, the magazine "just can't, in good conscience, continue to defend it," the New Republic has kept mum about the whole thing for the last month. [Update: Franklin Foer today spoke to the New York Observer, saying that "It's maddening to see the Army selectively leak to the Drudge Report things that we've been trying to obtain from them through Freedom of Information Act requests."]
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.