Bipartisan Fabulism

Just as The New Republic has finally officially distanced itself from the egregious reporting of Scott Beauchamp, yet another fabulist has been brought to the attention of the blogosphere. This time it’s someone from the other side of the aisle.

W. Thomas Smith Jr., writing for the National Review online’s military blog called “The Tank,” has apparently been caught making exaggerated and false claims in his reporting. His reports from Lebanon in September have been called into question by other reporters in the area. I’ll give a couple of examples mentioned in Michelle Malkin’s piece as well as from Smith himelf:

Here’s what Smith posted in his entry from September 25th:

Between the airport and the committee’s office, we (my escorts and I) passed by the sprawling Hezbollah tent city — some 200-plus heavily armed Hezbollah militiamen — positioned between the parliament and the Serail, basically the headquarters of the prime minister, his deputies, and all the cabinet members.

Here’s what Smith has to say now, after others have questioned his claims:

Did I physically see and count 200 men carrying weapons? No. If I mistakenly conveyed that impression to my readers, I apologize. I saw lots of men, lots of them carrying walkie-talkie radios, and a tent city that could have easily housed many more than 200.

On September 29th Smith filed another report at The Tank claiming this:

Hezbollah is rehearsing for something big here. Not sure what or when. But a few days ago, between 4,000 and 5,000 HezB gunmen deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in an unsettling “show of force,” positioning themselves at road intersections and other key points throughout the city.

Here’s his explanation after reporters called into question his number:

Since then, I have not been able to independently verify that “thousands” of armed Hezbollah fighters deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in late September, but my sources continue to insist that it happened.

In both these cases he cited specific numbers, not the general “thousands” or “lots” that he says he picked up from other sources. Granted, these aren’t as bad, in my opinion, as the stories made up by Scott Beauchamp, but it’s still journalistic malpractice. He gave numbers that by his own admission he didn’t actually have. I agree with Malkin that righties who criticized TNR and scrutinized the Beauchamp stories had better not ignore this. I also agree with her that Kathryn Lopez at NRO has done the sensible thing by immediately disclosing the problem instead of stonewalling for months the way TNR did.

Already this has brought charges of hypocrisy from the left side of the blogosphere. I think it would be prudent to head off these claims now by at least noting and showing disapproval of this incident.

Update: As I was composing this others have already chimed in. Via memeorandum I see Captain’s Quarters and Little Green Footballs have commented on the story. Neither is defending what Smith has done, but Ed Morrissey also notes that NRO has handled it the right way, as opposed to TNR with Beauchamp.


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