LMAO. Michelle Malkin was still doing her touchdown celebration dance over The New Republic’s revelations that it can no longer stand by Scott Beauchamp’s war diary when she was hit upside the head with revelations that one of National Review Online’s bloggers has been making shit up.
Ugh. This is bad on many levels. W. Thomas Smith, Jr., a former Marine and milblogger who writes at National Review Online’s The Tank (and whose work in Iraq I’ve praised and linked to here), posts a long-winded defense of bogus, shoddy reporting he published while he was in Lebanon earlier this fall. It’s painful to read because he takes nearly 1,400 words to get to the main points:
1) He claimed he had seen “some 200-plus heavily armed Hezbollah militiamen” at a “sprawling Hezbollah tent city” when, in fact, he hadn’t seen 200-plus heavily armed Hezbollah militiamen.
2) He reported that 4,000-5,000 Hezbollah gunmen had been “deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in an unsettling ‘show of force,’” when, in fact, there is no evidence that a deployment of 4,000-5,000 Hezbollah gunmen to Christian areas of Beirut ever took place.
IOW, Smith was lying.
Of course, neither Michelle Malkin nor NRO editor Kathryn Jean Lopez actually admits that Smith lied. Lopez says the blog posts were simply missing “context” and “caveats”:
Bottom line: NRO strives to bring you reliable analysis and reporting — whether in presenting articles, essays, or blog posts. Smith did commendable work in Lebanon earlier this year, as he does from S.C. where he is based, as he has done from Iraq, where he has been twice. But rereading some of the posts (see “The Tank” for more detail) and after doing a thorough investigation of some of the points made in some of those posts, I’ve come to the conclusion that NRO should have provided readers with more context and caveats in some posts from Lebanon this fall. And so I apologize to you, our readers.
Malkin, who gleefully characterized Scott Beauchamp’s stories as “bullcrap”, is kinder to Smith, whose lies she describes as “phenomenal errors” and “XXL” “mistakes”:
[…]And “the nature of blogging” doesn’t excuse the phenomenal errors..
We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. But these were not small mistakes. They were XXL ones.
Via Huffington Post’s Thomas Edsall, several Middle-East journalists weigh in on Smith’s tall tales:
Michael Prothero, who has reported for Fortune, the Washington Times, and Slate, wrote in an email:
“In his [Smith’s] wildly entertaining postings, he describes kidnap attempts, an armed incursion into Christian East Beirut by 5,000 armed Hezbollah fighters that was missed by every journalist in town, he also notes the presence of 200 armed Hezbollah fighters in downtown Beirut ‘laying siege’ to the prime ministers office, recounts high-speed car chases and ‘armed recon operations’ where he drives around south Beirut taking pictures of Hezbollah installations, while carrying weapons. In a word, this is all insane.”
“He’s a fabulist,” wrote Chris Allbritton, who has reported from the Middle East since 2002 for Time, Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Times, and the Newark Star-Ledger. According to Allbritton, in an email to the Huffington Post, “[Smith’s] claim that 4,000 Hezbollah gunmen took over East Beirut at the end of September simply never happened. Every journalist in town would have pounced on that story, and he’s the only one who noticed?”
A third reporter for a major U.S. magazine, who did not want his name used because he did not want to become involved in a journalistic controversy, wrote in an email to the Huffington Post:
“Mr. Smith also says that 4,000 armed Hezbollah fighters took up positions in East Beirut one day this fall in a ‘show of force’. This would have been a major international news event and possibly the start of the next Lebanese civil war. In January, unarmed opposition supporters led by Hezbollah shut down roads in Beirut, and the event sparked riots and led the news all over the world. And yet, Mr. Smith is the only journalist in Lebanon to have found this story, as far as I know. So why, with such a major scoop in his hands, does Smith devote just a few lines in a blog post to it? Because it never happened.”
A fourth reporter, who works for a major media outlet and has extensive experience reporting in the area, also asked to remain anonymous, but emailed the Huffington Post:
“This guy is hilarious. Armed Hezbollah at the Serail? He must be mistaking the Lebanese army at the gates – those 200 in the tents are some middle class Hezbollees – who now come once a week to have a smoke with their friends and get away from their wives.”
Michelle Malkin reaches desperately for some moral highground on behalf of conservatives:
Kathryn Lopez, to her credit, immediately disclosed the controversy to readers. Contrary to the TNR editors, she thanked the reporter who first questioned Smith’s account, instead of trashing critics.
Umm… no, Lopez did not “immediately” disclose anything. In fact, two journalists have come forward to say they emailed Lopez with their concerns about Smith’s reporting more than six weeks ago. Apparently, she ignored them. It wasn’t until Edsall contacted her for comment on the story he was writing for Huffington Post that she disclosed anything at all.
Andrew Sullivan has more.