Last week, conservative bloggers came to the defense of American soldiers after The New Republic published its third article by “Scott Thomas,” a pseudonym for a soldier that says he is currently serving in Iraq. On July 13, “Thomas” relayed an incident that took place in the chow hall in which he and a group of soldiers made fun of a female contractor whose face was disfigured by an IED. “Thomas” claims he sarcastically told the group (within earshot of the woman), “I love chicks that have been intimate with IEDs. It really turns me on – melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses…” The group responded like hyenas while the woman rushed out in shame.
“Thomas” recalls another incident of barbaric proportions. “One private, infamous as a joker and troublemaker, found the top part of a human skull, which was almost perfectly preserved. It even had chunks of hair, which were stiff and matted down with dirt. He squealed as he placed it on his head like a crown. It was a perfect fit. As he marched around with the skull on his head, people dropped shovels and sandbags, folding in half with laughter. No one thought to tell him to stop. No one was disgusted. Me included.”
“Thomas” asks, “Am I monster?” Yes, in more than one respect. Like monsters under the bed, this one may also be fictional. American Thinker blogger Ray Robison thinks so. Last week he reported that “Thomas’s” writing and experiences were eerily similar to Clifton Hick’s, a former Army sergeant. Robison writes, “Hicks has become that most cherished item for the anti-war crowd, a soldier who fulfills their need for first-hand accounts of war atrocities. Hicks was granted conscientious objector status and a release from the Army after receiving administrative punishment for unprofessional conduct. Since then, and especially recently, he has tapped into the anti-war establishment for self-promotion.”
Following Robison’s questions on whether “Scott Thomas” is actually Clifton Hicks (who has been out of the Army for a couple of years), Hicks responded that he is not Scott Thomas. Hicks wrote, “Ray, I don't know if this Scott Thomas character is real or not, nor do I care… It could be fake, or it could be real, you and I will probably never know.”
Does The New Republic care if his story is real or fake? In addition to Robison’s questioning, several readers have said that “Thomas’s” description of military equipment and timeline of events are inaccurate. But, that’s just another day in the life of a New Republic editor.
The New Republic has a history of believing the worst about certain groups with little fact-checking and regard for the truth. Many remember their former associate editor, Stephen Glass, who the magazine later acknowledged had fabricated details in 27 of his 41 articles while he was at The New Republic. However, the liberal magazine only issued apologies for three of the 27 articles. Despite a handwritten apology from Glass more than six years later, The New Republic itself never apologized for the outright lies that were published about the 1997 Conservative Political Action Conference. In his 2003 letter to the American Conservative Union, sponsor of CPAC, Glass wrote, “I recently reread the story and was very ashamed of it. It was a horrible thing to have written, and I deeply regret it.”
More recently, The New Republic turned its attention to the National Review cruise. The cruise took place in November 2006, but the article wasn’t published until July 2007. National Review Managing Editor Jay Nordlinger posits, “‘Why the delay?’ I don't know – if the editors were uneasy, that suggests the presence of a conscience, somewhere. But, of course, they published anyway.” Nordlinger heard from many people who attended the cruise and while he does not pinpoint any specific lie, he calls it a “vicious, disgusting piece” and “so slanted and misleading, it amounts to a lie.” He concludes, “In a sense, the piece is a spiritual descendant of the Glass CPAC piece – just a smear job on a conservative event. How proud the New Republic people must be.”
In addition to bloggers’ eagle eyes, The Weekly Standard and the spokesman for the military base where “Scott Thomas” claims to be stationed have also raised questions about the plausibility of the events he describes. Regarding the allegations that “Scott Thomas” is not being truthful, The New Republic’s Frankin Foer told the New York Times, “Now that these questions have been raised, we’ve launched an inquiry. We’re putting the full resources of the magazine to look into the story. It’s taking me a little bit longer than I wish it did. The author, not to mention some of the participants in the anecdotes he described, are active duty soldiers and they’re on 20-hour active combat missions sometimes, and it’s very difficult for me to get them all on the phone to ask them the questions that I’d like to ask.” Apparently, he never thought to ask these questions before publishing the articles.
The New Republic has a propensity to believe the very worst lies about conservatives and the military. When one of their writers confirms their worldview, fact-checking is thrown on the window. Instead, The New Republic is in the business of conducting investigations after articles have been published and people have been dragged through the mud. Rather than practicing journalistic integrity, they slide by until they get caught.