The New Republic
The New Republic is a US arts and politics magazine known for its liberal views on many domestic issues, and extreme hawkishness on foreign policy. Once an influential liberal publication, the magazine has moved increasingly to the right since its purchase in 1974 by neoconservative Martin Peretz. In 2007, Peretz sold the publication to the Canadian CanWest corporation. In March 2009, as Canwest was facing bankruptcy, Peretz (who was still editor-in-chief) repurchased the magazine with a group of investors led by Laurence Grafstein. Peretz still writes regular columns for TNR and retains his position as editor-in-chief. In 2006 Peretz made the surprising move of appointing former TNR staff writer Franklin Foer as editor to replace Peter Beinart. Foer, unlike past editors, had no previous editorial experience. In one profile Foer is described as "low-key as they come, deferential almost to the point of shyness."
The magazine was founded in 1914 by Willard Straight, Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann, and others. In 1974 it was bought from Gilbert Harrison by Martin Peretz with $380,000 acquired from his wife, the Singer Sewing machine heiress Anne Labouisse Farnsworth. Harrison, according to Alterman, 'believed he had secured Peretz's promise to let him continue to run the magazine for three years' but was was soon removed from his position after he rejected too many articles which Peretz hoped to publish in the magazine. Peretz appointed himself the editor.
- Much of the staff, which then included Walter Pincus, Stanley Karnow, and Doris Grumbach, was either fired or chose to resign. The staffers were largely replaced by young men fresh out of Harvard, with plenty of talent but few journalistic credentials and little sense of the magazine's place in the history of liberalism.
Peretz has said that he promised himself that he would: "Try, try very hard not to hire anybody who isn't smarter than you, and wiser." During the 1980s The New Republic became a leading champion of Reagan's proxy wars in Central America. But it was under Andrew Sullivan that the paper's liberal position on domestic politics also suffered. Sullivan invited Charles Murray, author of the infamous The Bell Curve, to write a 10,000 word cover story arguing that Blacks were intellectually inferior to whites. He also published an attack on Clinton's proposed healthcare plan by right-wing think-tanker Elizabeth Betsy McCaughey. Over the years, the magazine has provided platform to many neoconservative hardliners, including Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Lawrence Kaplan, Joshua Muravchik, Eric Breindel, Irving Kristol, Edward Luttwak, Michael Ledeen, Ronald Radosh, and Robert Kagan among others. Alterman concludes:
- It would be odd for a liberal magazine to carry pieces by any of these writers, much less all of them. Could their inclusion possibly be related to the fact that each one of them is closely associated with support for the hawkish Peretzian position on Israel?
Peretz retained majority ownership of the magazine until 2002, when he sold a two-thirds stake to two financiers. He sold the remainder of his share in 2007 to Canwest, though he stayed as editor-in-chief. Though the new editor Franklin Foer has tried to restore some of the magazine's liberal credibility, it continues to espouse a neoconservative line on the Middle East. On 5 February 2007 it published a cover story entitled "Israel's Worst Nightmare" by Israeli writers Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren (who has since been appointed ambassador to the US) who made a case for a US war with Iran solely on the basis of the alleged threat it poses to Israel. According to Peretz, the Asper family, which controls CanWest, shares his Israel obsession. According to Alterman, the family is known for
- censoring its newspapers' coverage of the Middle East conflict and replacing the word "Palestinian" with the word "terrorist" when it suits [their] purposes. Peretz will no longer be incurring TNR's losses, but he will remain the Aspers' man at the helm.
Turn to Neoconservatism
In 1999, Peretz appointed Peter Beinart as the magazine's editor. Beinart, according to Alterman,
- asserted, with his patron, that the only true liberals were those who embraced the neoconservatives' Middle East policies, most especially their relentless drumbeat for the invasion of Iraq. Those who disagreed were naive at best, and anti-American in effect if not in intent. As the magazine's signal foreign policy voice, TNR editors chose Lawrence Kaplan, who echoed almost entirely the views espoused by his sometime-writing partner, William Kristol at The Weekly Standard. Their point was not merely to make the neoconservative case, but also to undercut the legitimacy of the liberal opposition.
Israel: The Party Line
In an interview with J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Jewish daily Forward, Peretz boasted that the magazine was a 'genuinely independent place' and had 'no party line.' He added: 'Well, there's a sort of party line on Israel.' According to Goldberg, the magazine is 'the most militant defender of Israel.' It frequently attacks critics of Israel. Even Colin Powell found himself compared to Osama Bin Laden for making statements in favour of justice for the Palestinians. The editors attacked 'the banality of Colin Powell's address on American foreign policy' and accused Powell of providing
- a kind of bizarre ratification of Osama bin Laden's view of the problem...There is bin Laden attempting to persuade the Muslim world that what he wants is justice for the Palestinians, and here is Powell attempting to persuade the Muslim world that what he wants is justice for the Palestinians.
For media scholar Eric Alterman, under Peretz the once liberal publication was turned into 'a kind of ideological police dog' which sought to define 'the borders of "responsible" liberal discourse, thereby tarring anyone who disagreed as irresponsible or untrustworthy. But he did so on the basis of a politics simultaneously so narrow and idiosyncratic -- in thrall almost entirely to an Israel-centric neoconservatism -- that it's difficult to understand how the magazine's politics might be considered liberal anymore.' He adds:
- TNR under Peretz has been a vehicle that proved extremely helpful to Ronald Reagan's wars in Central America and George Bush's war in Iraq. It provided seminal service to Newt Gingrich's and William Kristol's efforts to kill the Clinton plan for universal health care and offered intellectual legitimacy to Charles Murray's efforts to portray black people as intellectually inferior to whites. As for liberal causes, however … well, not so much.
- By pretending to speak as a liberal but simultaneously endorsing the central crusades of the right, he has enlisted The New Republic in the service of a ruinous neoconservative doctrine.
Criticism for "Fictitious" Reporting
Betsy McCaughey's "No Exit"
In 1994 under the supervision of then editor Andrew Sullivan, Betsy McCaughey wrote an article providing an extremely negative take on the Clintons' proposed health care reforms titled "No Exit". Many argue that the piece "helped derail health care reform" and influence political debate in Washington. McCaughey's attempt to display neutrality on the issue of health care in the US was seriously undermined by her history of working for right-wing think thanks (at the time of "No Exit's" publication McCaughey was working at the Manhattan Institute) and as revealed years later by Rolling Stone Magazine, because McCaughey was reportedly "influenced by Phillip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company." Even though many journalists such as The Atlantic's James Fallows decried the article's accuracy then and even more so now, TNR was awarded the National Magazine Award for McCaughey's work in 1995.
Reactions to TNR's resulting National Magazine Award
TNR's 1995 National Magazine Award for McCaughey's "No Exit" continues to draw severe criticism. In 2009 The Atlantic's James Fallows wrote that his nomination for "Most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person" in the 1990s would be McCaughey. Fallows nominated Dick Cheney for the 2000s. Salon's Joe Conason wrote in 2009 that Sullivan and Peretz (both personally named in the 1995 National Magazine Award) should "return the National Magazine Award, for the sake of the journalists and editors who have honestly earned that prize. That gesture might restore a semblance of sanity to the debate over healthcare."
After news of the award was publicized, TNR's Mickey Kaus analyzed McCaughey's work and revealed its fabrications as well as reiterated claims that the article won because of the buzz it generated rather than its merits in investigative journalism:
- So why don't I feel more like celebrating? Is it because, as a New Yorker editor publicly complained, the McCaughey articles seemed to have been " nominated for buzz"? Perhaps. But does The New Yorker not care about buzz? (Tell it to the Easter Bunny.) Is it because my colleague Michael Kinsley, in this space, denounced the initial McCaughey piece as a "screed," and James Fallows, writing in the Atlantic, said its claims were "simply false" and Theodore Marmor, professor of public policy at Yale, told me his fellow health experts of left, right and center consider McCaughey's articles "risible"?...Maybe all these people are just jealous. If they aren't, though, the award to McCaughey has not only validated a misleading view of the Clinton health plan, but also a peculiar idea of how journalists should affect public debate.
Years later TNR senior editor Michelle Cottle wrote a long piece analyzing McCaughey's career and reactions to the criticism she drew for "No Exit" and concluded that:
- Since her earliest days in the spotlight, McCaughey has presented herself as a just-the-facts-please, above-the-fray political outsider. In reality, she has proved devastatingly adept at manipulating charts and stats to suit her ideological (and personal) ambitions. It is this proud piety concerning her own straight-shooting integrity combined with her willingness to peddle outrageous fictions--and her complete inability to recognize, much less be shamed by, this behavior--that makes McCaughey so infuriating. In this way, perhaps most of all, she resembles the tell-it-like-it-is good ol' girl Palin, whose scorching self-regard and ostentatious disdain for politics-as-usual infuse even her most self-serving fabulisms. Palin, of course, hawks homespun wisdom, faith, and common sense, in contrast to McCaughey's figures and footnotes. But both women have an uncanny ability to shovel their toxic nonsense with nary a blink, tremor, or break in those dazzling smiles. People of goodwill and honest counsel don't stand a chance.
Current TNR Editor Franklin Foer stated during a 2007 interview that TNR "recanted that story in the first issue and apologized for it", and told Politico in 2009 that "it’s an original sin that I hope we can expunge," but while his claim is reiterated in a TNR introduction to one of its articles: "TNR later apologized for its role in Hillarycare's demise", and again in 2007, the so-called apology and an article that only expresses regret for the effects of McCaughey's fabrications 1,751 words in, there is no dedicated official apology existing anywhere on its website to date. In Jamison Foser's words:
- Pretty weak stuff, as far as recantations and apologies go. It doesn't even specifically mention the article or the author. The mea culpa is a mere seven words: "a debacle that this magazine, regrettably, abetted.
From Andrew Sullivan
In response to a piece by Ezra Klein criticizing then editor Sullivan's role in pushing "No Exit" forward, Sullivan admits responsibility, but does not apologize for the ramifications of the article's fraudulent claims:
- I don't think it's fair to expose the internal editing of a piece but there was a struggle and it's fair to say I didn't win every skirmish. I was aware of the piece's flaws but nonetheless was comfortable running it as a provocation to debate. It sure was. The magazine fully aired subsequent criticism of the piece. And if the readers of TNR are incapable of making their own minds up, then we might as well give up on the notion of intelligent readers. The piece also won a National Magazine Award.
In a report for Media Matters for America, Jamison Foser named prominent magazines that had apologized and lost awards for false reports that they had published to draw attention to the fact that while TNR tried to "distance itself from the article," it remained only "superficially apologetic." Foser dissects Sullivan's responses to criticisms launched against him for allowing McCaughey's "fictitious" claims to be published under his editorial supervision and concludes "One thing -- and only one thing -- is certain: Sullivan has never clearly apologized for running the article or said he was wrong to do so -- and, indeed, he continues to brag about having won awards for it." While admitting that Sullivan is "possessed of sounder views" today, Ezra Klein also criticized Sullivan for not being forthright about his role in publicizing a "dishonest fearmongering article": "But the past hasn't disappeared, and when talking about the Clintons, he owes his readers a more honest accounting of what took place."
From Martin Peretz
In Esquire magazine Sullivan reportedly mentioned how owner Marty Peretz had suggested McCaughey to him, "asking what type of piece she could do for TNR." But aside from that, little information is available about Peretz's involvement with regard to editorial supervision of the article. When asked about his position on the event in 2009 Peretz was also unapologetic:
- I do not think Betsy is an intellectual fraud. Not at all...I have not read the Cottle piece and I do look forward to doing that...But the issue that McCaughey went after was one of the most intricate and economically challenging ones that America has faced, as we can see from the present debate.
Stephen Glass was considered a "rising star" at TNR before it was revealed that he had made up quotations, organizations and in some cases entire articles while working there between 1995-1998. Glass was hired by then editor Andrew Sullivan but was supervised by Sullivan's replacement Charles Lane from 1996 onwards. In 1998 when Glass was reportedly earning $100,000, at least 27 of his 41 stories were revealed to contain fabrications. It was only after a Forbes reporter proved one of Glass's stories about a teenage hacker to be full of fabrications that Lane decided to conduct his own investigation into Glass's work. Lane fired Glass on May 9, 1998. TNR's fact-checking standards were reportedly "tightened" after the incident. Lane served as a "paid consultant" for a 2003 film based on the scandal called "Shattered Glass."
Lane accepted responsibility for not catching Glass's flawed reporting sooner but was not reprimanded for the event. Shortly after the incident he stated that if Glass had been able to go on further he would have "destroyed the magazine.”
- Tim Warren, "The Fixer Can editor Franklin Foer rescue the New Republic?", Columbia Magazine, Summer 2007, accessed on 15 November 2010
- Eric Alterman, My Marty Peretz Problem -- And Ours, The American Prospect, 18 June 2007
- KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, "New Republic’s Editor in Chief Sells His Share of the Magazine", New York Times, 28 February 2007
- David D. Kirkpatrick, New Republic's Longtime Owner Sells Control to 2 Big Financiers, The New York Times, 28 January 2002
- Katharine Q. Seelye, New Republic’s Editor in Chief Sells His Share of the Magazine, The New York Times, 28 February 2007
- Michael B. Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi, Israel's Worst Nightmare, The New Republic, 5 February 2007
- Goldberg (1996): 299
- Elizabeth McCaughey, "No Exit", The New Republic, 7 February 1994
- Michael Calderone, "Foer on TNR's 'original sin'; McCaughey piece 15 years later", Politico, 5 October 2009
- James Fallows, "Let's Stop This Before It Goes Any Further", The Atlantic, 12 February 2009
- Susie Madrak, "Rolling Stone Finds A Smoking Gun: Betsy McCaughey Lied About Healthcare Reform For Tobacco Lobby", Crooks and Liars, 19 September 2010
- James Fallows, "A T, The Atlantic, January 1995
- James Fallows, "I was wrong", The Atlantic, 13 August 2009
- Jamison Foser, "No apology", Media Matters for America, 9 October 2009
- Mickey Kaus, "No Exegesis", The New Republic, 8 May 1995
- James Fallows, "Let's Stop This Before It Goes Any Further", The Atlantic, 12 February 2009
- Joe Conason, "Time for the media to fess up", Salon, 9 October 2009
- Michelle Cottle, "No Exit The never-ending lunacy of Betsy McCaughey.", The New Republic, 5 October 2009
- Elizabeth McCaughey, "No Exit", The New Republic, accessed on 15 November 2010
- TNR Staff, "In Today's Web Magazine", The New Republic, 4 June 2007, accessed on 15 November 2010
- Ezra Klein, "Justifications", The American Prospect, 10 October 2007
- Andrew Sullivan, "Answering Ezra", The Atlantic, 11 October 2007
- Rebecca Leung, "Stephen Glass: I Lied For Esteem: 60 Minutes: Steve Kroft's Exclusive Interview With Former Reporter", 60 Minutes, 17 August 2003
- Vanity Fair, "Shattered Glass, Vanity Fair, October 2007, accessed on 19 November 2010
- Adam L. Penenberg, "Forbes smokes out fake New Republic story on hackers", Forbes, 11 April 1998
- Jack Shafer, "Glass Houses", Slate, 15 May 1998
- Washington Post, "Shattered Glass: Trust in Journalism Interview Transcript", Washington Post, 12 November 2003
- Charlie Rose, "A conversation with Charles Lane of "The New Republic"", Charlie Rose, 12 June 1998
- Buzz Bissinger, "Shattered Glass", Vanity Fair, September 1998
- Martin Peretz - Owner, Editor-in-chief
- Herbert Croly (1914–1930)
- Bruce Bliven (1930–1946)
- Henry A. Wallace (1946–1948)
- Michael Straight (1948–1956)
- Gilbert A. Harrison (1956–1975)
- Martin Peretz (1975–1979)
- Michael Kinsley (1979–1981; 1985–1989)
- Hendrik Hertzberg (1981–1985; 1989–1991)
- Andrew Sullivan (1991–1996)
- Michael Kelly (1996–1997)
- Charles Lane (1997–1999)
- Peter Beinart (1999–2006)
- Franklin Foer (2006–present)
- David Carr, Franklin Foer Is Named Top Editor of New Republic, The New York Times, 28 February 2006