Monday, August 20, 2007

Richard Miniter is a Lazy Ass

Some words that jump out in Richard Miniter's "reporting" on TNR:

Perhaps because McGee worked on the business side of the magazine on the first floor and not with the editors and writers on the second, Foer didn’t consider him a genuine insider—and therefore gave him the company line. But McGee believes that Foer was speaking his mind. ...

What appears to be his home phone number—the only Foer listed in D.C.—has been “temporarily disconnected.”

Perhaps a cone of silence has descended. A longtime New Republic editor told me that she was not sure that she was allowed to discuss the Beauchamp affair...

In the days after the party, Elspeth Reeve received the sympathetic attention of editors and fact-checkers at The New Republic’s offices. They did not blame her for escorting a fabricator into the magazine’s inner sanctum, who hoodwinked them and body-slammed the magazine’s reputation, according to McGee. Apparently, they did not ask what responsibility she might bear. ...

Reeve is not talking to the press, most likely on orders from editor Franklin Foer or the magazine’s attorneys. Yet it is possible to reconstruct what she knew about Beauchamp. ...

Indeed, it appears that Beauchamp’s relationship with Reeve shifted into high gear around the time he was first published in the magazine....

It appears Beauchamp had little interest in Reeve until she was in a position to help him. “I knew he was engaged twice before he was with me, but not with Elspeth [his college friend and now wife]. … Last summer, we were together in my room and he told me about her and made fun of her.”...

Beauchamp appears to repeating this behavior. Even though he has access to free phones on base to call the United States, he is not offering an explanation to the press—just as he didn’t offer one to Priscilla....

Etc., etc., etc. There are a host of other problems with this piece, in addition to the fact that it's almost purely speculative. Miniter writes:

The Monday after the party, at the magazine’s offices, Foer was locked in a long serious conversation with Leon Wieseltier, the bear-shaped intellectual who has run the magazine’s literary section with distinction since 1983. They were talking about Beauchamp. Foer couldn’t understand why anyone would just make things up.

Wieseltier did. “Maybe he [Beauchamp] is a sociopath.”

As new details about Beauchamp’s strange private life emerged, Wieseltier’s initial assessment would prove to be on target.

This is unsourced. Miniter doesn't even attribute this to a "senior editor" or a "staffer." Who would have knowledge of this conversation? (We know that neither Foer nor Wieseltier would speak with Miniter.) Also, there is zero proof that "Wieseltier’s initial assessment" is "on target." Or perhaps Miniter has spoken to a doctor that examined Beauchamp and diagnosed him as a sociopath. Miniter doesn't say. But to assert this is beyond irresponsible.

Reeve certainly knew enough about Beauchamp’s strange history of lies to lead her to be careful of his journalism or to speak up when other editors fact-checked his work.

Evidence for this assertion? None. In fact, Miniter's reporting contradicts one of the central claims of TNR's detractors -- that Reeve's relationship with Beauchamp was the reason he got published.

Miniter notes that "Beauchamp wrote his first “Baghdad Diarist” for The New Republic, in January 2007..." But, Beauchamps ex-fiancee tells him, Reeve "started emailing him in February or so,” which would be after he'd already been published.

Reeve knew that Beauchamp was a cheater. “Of course she knew about me,” Priscilla wrote. “She knew about me since last year and she knew we were engaged.”

Call me a skeptic, but I'd like to know how she knows. The word of a spurned ex is not good enough.

Miniter writes:

Let’s go into the fact-checking department. Elspeth Reeve was one of three fact-checkers at the magazine.

Did she fact-check her husband’s articles? While it is hard to believe that an established magazine would make such an elementary error, so far no one at the magazine has bothered to address the question. That’s an interesting omission.

Even if Reeve did not double-check her husband’s reporting, she worked alongside the other two fact-checkers and often shared a take-out lunch with them in the magazine’s conference room. They liked her. Would they really treat Beauchamp’s pieces like an article that floated in from a stranger? ...

Perhaps the fact-checkers believed that they didn’t have to check his work thoroughly because they knew and trusted his wife, who they affectionately called “Elle.”

Not a single hard fact in the passage! If ever there is a Pulitzer given for "pure speculation dress up as reporting," Richard Miniter is a shoo-in.

Then there is the role of the magazine’s editor. Foer had met Beauchamp, shook his hand and talked to him, according to McGee.

That’s the real reason why Foer insisted on correcting his quote in The New York Times about knowing that Beauchamp was a soldier with “near certainty” to “absolute certainty.” Some of the blogosphere’s speculations look overheated once we know that Foer actually met Beauchamp.

And a temp who works on the business side of the magazine knows this how? When did it happen? Where? And, even if this is true, how does McGee know Foer's motivation for correcting a quote? I'd be curious to hear more about the young man's supernatural abilities.

It should come as no surprise that Putz, Dean Barnett and Hugh Hewitt have linked to this slop without any caveats or criticism.

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