UPDATED: Weekly Standard used alleged former male escort Matt Sanchez as source to attack credibility of a TNR "Baghdad Diarist"
Research ››› ››› MAX BLUMENTHAL
UPDATE: At 3:43 p.m. ET on August 2, The New Republic posted on its website "A Statement on Scott Thomas Beauchamp," attributed to "the Editors," which reported that as a result of questions raised about the veracity of Beauchamp's posts for TNR, the magazine had "extensively re-reported Beauchamp's account." Regarding the anecdote Beauchamp told about mocking a disfigured woman in a dining hall in Iraq -- the anecdote that the Weekly Standard quoted Sanchez disputing -- the editors wrote the following:
Beauchamp's essay consisted of three discrete anecdotes. In the first, Beauchamp recounted how he and a fellow soldier mocked a disfigured woman seated near them in a dining hall. Three soldiers with whom TNR has spoken have said they repeatedly saw the same facially disfigured woman. One was the soldier specifically mentioned in the Diarist. He told us: "We were really poking fun at her; it was just me and Scott, the day that I made that comment. We were pretty loud. She was sitting at the table behind me. We were at the end of the table. I believe that there were a few people a few feet to the right."
The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp's on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.
The editors reported that they were able to corroborate the rest of Beauchamp's reporting, although they said their review was "short-circuit[ed]" by the Army, which undertook its own investigation.
According to the Weekly Standard, Sanchez wrote an email to the Standard's Michael Goldfarb, in which he disputed Beauchamp's assertion that the incident occurred at Camp Falcon. Sanchez reportedly wrote: "Frankly, I don't believe ANY of this story. I've eaten in the Falcon chow hall and never saw anyone like the woman described."
While TNR editors found further evidence that the incident did in fact occur, the editors' statement corroborates Sanchez's suggestion that the incident did not occur where Beauchamp originally said it did.
In an effort to undermine a New Republic article by Army Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp about alleged inappropriate conduct by U.S. troops in Iraq, an article by Weekly Standard reporter Matthew Goldfarb relied on Marine Cpl. Matt Sanchez as the only military source identified by name but did not reveal facts that weigh on the credibility of Sanchez's attacks on The New Republic article: that Sanchez, whose website describes him as a "Marine Reservist" who is "[p]resently in Iraq interviewing the troops," has reportedly been under investigation by the Marines over allegations that he bilked private donors out of $12,000 for a deployment to Iraq he never made and that he apparently once worked as a male escort. He has also admitted to having been in gay porn films, a fact he has acknowledged "leaving ... off my curriculum vitae."
On July 13, The New Republic published an article by a "Baghdad Diarist" by the name of "Scott Thomas," which TNR identified as "a pseudonym for a freelance writer and soldier currently serving in Baghdad." Thomas alleged that while eating in the mess hall at Camp Falcon, he and several other members of his platoon mocked a woman disfigured by "IEDs." Thomas also told the tales of a fellow soldier who ran over dogs with a Bradley Fighting Vehicle for entertainment and another who played with the skull of a dead Iraqi child. The veracity of TNR's story was subsequently challenged in a Weekly Standard blog post by Goldfarb as well as by several other right-wing bloggers, attacks that were noted by Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz in a July 21 article for the Post. On July 26, "Thomas" revealed his true identity as Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who is reportedly married to New Republic reporter-researcher Elspeth Reeve.
On July 20, before Beauchamp revealed his identity, Goldfarb published an article for the Standard alleging that the account by TNR's "Thomas" was "looking more and more like fiction." Goldfarb's story relied on quotes from several people identified in the story as active-duty members of the U.S. armed forces. These sources were all quoted anonymously except for Sanchez, who was described by Goldfarb as a man who "stands behind his work." According to the article, Sanchez wrote Goldfarb an email in which he stated:
I was actually in Camp Falcon earlier this month and I'm heading back from Afghanistan. I've contacted Captain Carson, the Public Affairs Officer for Falcon and I'll work on proving this Fact or Fiction.
Frankly, I don't believe ANY of this story. I've eaten in the Falcon chow hall and never saw anyone like the woman described.
However, Goldfarb did not disclose several facts that might undermine Sanchez's credibility. Sanchez is reportedly under investigation by the military for fraud. According to an April 1 Marine Corps Times article, Sanchez was informed in a March 22 email from Reserve Col. Charles Jones, a staff judge advocate, that he was under investigation for lying "'to various people, including but not limited to, representatives of the New York City United War Veterans Council [UWVC] and U-Haul Corporation' about deploying to Iraq at the commandant's request." According to the article, the email added: "'Specifically, you wrongfully solicited funds to support your purported deployment to Iraq' by coordinating a $300 payment from the UWVC and $12,000 from U-Haul." The article stated, "In an interview Thursday with Marine Corps Times, Sanchez said the fund-raising allegations are 'demonstrably false' and that he never collected money from either organization." The article stated that "[t]he Corps on Friday [March 29] was slated to wrap up" the Sanchez investigation, but Media Matters has been unable to locate any articles reporting whether the investigation did indeed wrap up, and if so, what the results of the investigation were.
In a March 8 article for Salon.com, Sanchez wrote: "Others [bloggers] were comparing me to Jeff Gannon and claiming that I too had advertised my services as a male escort. I won't deny it, or that I acted in several adult movies 15 years ago under names like Pierre LaBranche and Rod Majors."
After leaving his work as a male escort and in the adult film industry behind, Sanchez enlisted as a Marine Corps reservist and enrolled at Columbia University. In October 2005, Sanchez filed a harassment complaint against three Columbia students, members of the International Socialist Organization, who he claims verbally attacked him during a student fair. Three months later, Columbia decided to take no disciplinary action against the students named in Sanchez's complaint. He subsequently took his case to the conservative media, penning an op-ed for the New York Post and appearing on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor.
On March 2, Sanchez was rewarded for his campaign against campus anti-war activists with the Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award at the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Sanchez was photographed posing at the conference with right-wing pundit Ann Coulter moments after she called former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) a "faggot" during an address to the conference.
On March 6, several gay bloggers, including Joe.My.God, publicly identified Sanchez as a former porn actor and male escort. Sanchez's prior activities were also the subject of a segment on MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann. The segment featured Media Matters research fellow Max Blumenthal, the author of this item, discussing his Huffington Post article, "CPAC's Gay Porn Star Honoree, Ann Coulter, and the Politics of Personal Crisis."
In spite of the widespread availability of these facts about Sanchez, the Weekly Standard's Goldfarb identified Sanchez as merely an active duty soldier who "stands by his work."