New Republic Editor Suspended for 'Sockpuppet' Shenanigans

Another "sockpuppet" scandal has caught up with a member of the media. A sockpuppet is a fake name used on blogs to misrepresent yourself. Lee Siegel, who runs the Culture blog at The New Republic's website, could no longer take blog comments trashing his work. In one post criticizing comedian John Stewart, his "sprezzatura" username responded to reader comments:

"Siegel is brave, brilliant and wittier than Stewart will ever be. Take that, you bunch of immature, abusive sheep."

Reports the New York Times:

Franklin Foer, the New Republic’s editor, said in an interview that he first became aware of the accusations against Mr. Siegel on Thursday afternoon, after a colleague noticed a comment in the Talkback section of Mr. Siegel’s blog that accused him of using the alias “sprezzatura” to defend his articles and assail his critics.

That comment, posted by a reader named “jhschwartz” on Aug. 27, said that “sprezzatura appears only to weigh in on TNR forums to admonish and taunt posters who dislike Lee Siegel” before concluding, “I would say with 99% confidence that ‘sprezzatura’ is a Siegel alias.”

“We launched an investigation,” Mr. Foer said. He added that he was confident that sprezzatura’s posts were written with Mr. Siegel’s “full cooperation,” but declined to say whether the alias was used by Mr. Siegel himself because the affair was still under investigation. “As soon as the facts of the case became clear to me on Friday, we closed down the blog and made an announcement.” Mr. Foer said that while he liked to see blog posts before they were published, Mr. Siegel did not have an editor assigned to his blog entries.

In a statement by e-mail, Mr. Siegel said, “I’m sorry about my prank, which was certainly not designed to harm a magazine that has been my happy intellectual home for many years.”

Other bloggers noted the disclosure about Mr. Siegel. Ezra Klein, a blogger who had tangled with him, wrote in his blog on Friday, “The temptation to create a new persona and rally support for yourself in comments can be almost overwhelming.” But Mr. Klein said that most bloggers “resist the urge, take the lashing and move on.”

New Republic Editor Franklin Foer issued an online apology.

After an investigation, The New Republic has determined that the comments in our Talkback section defending Lee Siegel's articles and blog under the username "sprezzatura" were produced with Siegel's participation. We deeply regret misleading our readers. Lee Siegel's blog will no longer be published by TNR, and he has been suspended from writing for the magazine.