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Magazine can’t stand by ‘Baghdad Diarist’

The New Republic said it can't stand by three "Baghdad Diarist" dispatches written by a soldier whose claims included soldiers mocking a disfigured woman and running over dogs.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The New Republic magazine said it cannot stand by three “Baghdad Diarist” dispatches it published, which were written by a soldier in Iraq whose claims included soldiers mocking a disfigured woman and running over dogs.

An article by New Republic editor Franklin Foer posted Monday described re-reporting the magazine did on pieces by Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, 24, that were published under a pseudonym beginning in January.

The Baghdad Diarist pieces were questioned by bloggers, including one at the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, who in mid-July asked military bloggers to do “some digging” on the claims. Beauchamp’s identity was made public soon after.

Foer’s 7,000-word article describes the challenges the magazine faced verifying writing by a soldier in a war zone, as well as frustrations it met trying to get responses from the Army. Foer’s nuanced account admits mistakes by The New Republic, which didn’t ask anyone in the Army to review Beauchamp’s claims prior to publication, let his wife fact-check his pieces and depended on Beauchamp for contacts with other soldiers who could corroborate his claims.

But Foer also questions the Army’s actions in the matter and said The New Republic is still waiting for the Army to process a Freedom of Information Act request for the results of the investigation.

Writer’s ‘behavior was ... suspicious’
The first reports on the findings of an Army investigation that found Beauchamp’s claims were false came from a “former porn actor turned blogger named Matt Sanchez,” Foer wrote, instead of a public report. Sanchez’s account of the investigation was picked up by The Weekly Standard, Foer wrote, then other media, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Associated Press also picked up The Weekly Standard’s account.

“Beauchamp’s behavior was sometimes suspicious — promising evidence that never arrived — but so was the Army’s,” Foer wrote.

Still, Foer concluded, “In retrospect, we never should have put Beauchamp in this situation. He was a young soldier in a war zone, an untried writer without journalistic training. We published his accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of anonymity — which, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not fabricate.”

Furthermore, Foer wrote, “When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them.”

Beauchamp could not immediately be located for comment Tuesday, Army spokesmen said.