Nine years have passed since The New Republic came to grips with the fact that it had a serial fabulist on its hands in writer Stephen Glass. Now the liberal magazine is facing more scrutiny for more faulty reporting at the hands of Scott Thomas Beauchamp.
"I couldn't help but be struck by the similarities and differences at The New Republic, then and now," blogger Ed Morrissey wrote after viewing the 2003 film "Shattered Glass," based on the rise and fall of New Republic writer Stephen Glass. What's most damning, Morrissey argues, is that the Beauchamp scandal is much worse in terms of the gravity of the news material that was faked and the disparity in how the TNR editors have responded:
In the Glass debacle, the staff allowed themselves to rely on Glass entirely for verification because of their personal connections to the writer. In the Scott Beauchamp debacle that has undone TNR all over again, the same exact dynamic occurred. The magazine ran his stories without any real independent verification, exposing themselves all over again to charges of fabulism and unprofessionalism. In both cases, the first impulses of the magazine was to circle the wagons and pretend that it didn't matter very much that the writers couldn't support their stories with the facts.
Unfortunately, the differences between the two incidents don't redound to TNR's credit. With Glass -- who fabricated 27 of 41 stories without getting detected -- the editor of the magazine finally took a tough stand and fired Glass, apologizing to the magazine's readers within a month. As Power Line and Bob Owens note, TNR has yet to acknowledge that Beauchamp's story has fallen apart more than two months after they pledged to get to the truth of the matter. Since then, the Army has conducted its own investigation and found Beauchamp's stories false. TNR's reaction? They instructed Beauchamp to shut up, and have remained silent ever since.
That doesn't add to TNR's credibility on this matter. They got fooled by another writer whose personal connections to an editor apparently kept the magazine from vetting the story -- none of which added anything to the debate on the Iraq war except to imply that American soldiers conduct abuses for their personal amusement. They never did any research on Beauchamp, including the incredibly easy task of reading his personal website to see his intent for writing about the Army, or checking his deployment record to see whether he actually was in Iraq in the time frame he asserted.
While "Shattered Glass" is a fictional cinematic treatment of the Glass fiasco, Morrissey found one quote that is telling, I think, about the perverse certainty that left-wing journalists at TNR may have placed in Beauchamp's allegations of U.S. soldiers' misconduct (emphasis mine):
Near the end of Shattered Glass, Peter Sarsgaard as editor Charles Lane (now at the Washington Post) scolds Chloe Sevigny as Caitlin Avey after she keeps making excuses for Stephen Glass. "He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. Just because... we found him "entertaining." It's indefensible. Don't you know that?"