TNR's Foer Sticks by Beauchamp, Who Won't Defend His Writing Publicly

It's one thing for an editor to stubbornly defend a reporter whose story has come under fire when the reporter in question vehemently insists he is telling the truth. It's quite another when an editor stands by a discredited story that even the writer responsible for refuses to vigorously defend.Such appears to be the case with The New Republic's Franklin Foer. Here's how Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz reported the development in the October 25 paper (emphasis mine):

In a recorded Sept. 6 conversation, the writer, Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, said from Iraq that the controversy had "spun out of control" and had become "insane" and "ridiculous" and concluded: "I'm not going to talk to anyone about anything." Beauchamp stood his ground even after Editor Franklin Foer told him "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. . . . You wouldn't have much credibility left in the public eye. . . . You basically made a vow to us that what you were publishing was the truth." Foer added that Beauchamp's wife, Elspeth Reeve, then a New Republic reporter, had said "that it's the most important thing in the world for her that you say that you didn't recant." Beauchamp replied that she was a journalist and he was a soldier. Despite the contentious conversation, Foer continued to defend the article days later. He did so again yesterday, reiterating that other soldiers whom the magazine would not identify had confirmed the allegations. While Beauchamp "didn't stand by his stories in that conversation, he didn't recant his stories," Foer said in an interview. "He obviously was under considerable duress during that conversation, with his commanding officer in the room with him." While the discussion "was extremely frustrating and engendered doubts," Foer said, Beauchamp defended his story in a subsequent conversation that was conducted with no superiors present. In the Sept. 6 conversation, Executive Editor Peter Scoblic repeatedly urged Beauchamp to cooperate, saying that "Frank and his reputation have been dragged through the mud."

It seems Foer cares more about clinging desperately to a discredited story about soldiers' misconduct in Iraq than in defending the integrity and honor of his publication by cleansing it from the taint of fabricated reporting:

Beauchamp, with the Army's encouragement, had agreed to talk to The Washington Post and Newsweek on Sept. 6, but canceled the interviews at the last minute at Foer's urging. Foer said yesterday that "given everything we have on the line, we have a right to have this exclusive line of communication with him." 

[See also: Bob Owens' October 24 NewsBusters item.]

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters