2007 - %3, December

"Arabs Tend to Wear Red Shirts," Said the Man in the Red Shirt

| Sun Dec. 2, 2007 10:05 PM EST

You may have seen that National Review posted some glaringly false claims about Lebanon by a contributor, W. Thomas Smith, Jr. (If not, Thomas Edsall has written up the basics here.)

Now National Review is trying to explain what happened. Here's their online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez:

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Reviewing National Review

| Sun Dec. 2, 2007 9:03 PM EST

Several months ago one of National Review's blogs ran posts by contributor W. Thomas Smith, Jr. from Beirut. Smith described several things—"a sprawling Hezbollah tent city" with "some 200-plus heavily armed Hezbollah militiamen," and "4,000 and 5,000 HezB gunmen deployed to the Christian areas"—that appear not to have existed. Thomas Edsall has the details here, with more here from David Kenner.

This in itself is no judgment on National Review. While some publications do better fact-checking than others (Mother Jones is one of the best, in my experience), no one can produce 100% error-free journalism.

What does matter is how editors react when problems are brought to their attention. Glenn Greenwald explains what's happened to date here. National Review's online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez was alerted to the implausibility of Smith's claims six weeks ago by two journalists with experience in Lebanon. Yet she appears to have acted only when she realized Edsall would be writing about it. (ADDED CLARIFICATION: Mitchell Prothero, a Beirut photographer, writes here that he contacted National Review "more than six weeks ago." Harper's publishes here an email sent by journalist Chris Allbritton on October 6th calling Smith "a liar." However, it's unclear who at National Review would have received it. Lopez posts here her version of events, which does not mention Prothero or Allbritton.)

This reminds me of my own experience with Lopez. In October of last year, she wrote a post about the Johns Hopkins study estimating the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion as 655,000. Lopez printed email from "A Hill Guy" reading:

Romney to Give the "Mormon Speech"

| Sun Dec. 2, 2007 7:03 PM EST

Political observers have been wondering for a while if Mitt Romney will make a big speech on the topic of faith. He will do so this Thursday (according to CNN, which is calling it the "Mormon speech"). I don't know if it's because unwelcome whispers about Mormonism are circulating amongst the Republican base, or if it's because Romney is no longer the frontrunner in a state he thought he had sewn up. Whatever the case may be, tune in Thursday morning. And bring the popcorn.

Giuliani Corruption/Sex Scandal Metastasizing

| Sat Dec. 1, 2007 8:08 PM EST

This Giuliani scandal keeps getting better and better. First Politico found that when Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York, he billed the costs of his extramarital love trysts with Judith Nathan, his then-girlfriend and now-wife, to obscure city agencies. It was also shown that Giuliani billed his 2000 campaign expenses and his then-wife Donna Hanover's travel expenses to the same obscure agencies. The Giuliani campaign has had a hell of a time explaining the mayor's actions.

Then ABC discovered Nathan, as the mayor's girlfriend, was given a city car and police driver that she used as a personal "taxi service." Then CBS found an anonymous source who claims "Nathan forced police to chauffeur her friends and family around the city—even when she wasn't in the car."

And then the Daily News decide to pile on. They went to current mayor Mike Bloomberg's girlfriend/partner (they've lived together for six years) and asked her if she has a driver or security detail. "I don't have security in Bogota or Nairobi or Moscow when I travel there on business," Diana Taylor said. "Why would I need security in the safest city in the world?" An investment banker, Taylor takes the bus to her office and rides the subway to business appointments.

This thing could keep going through Christmas. It's the scandal that keeps giving and giving.