Part II: The story behind the story
Many of you by now have some knowledge regarding the controversy surrounding my blog posts for National Review Online while I was in Lebanon, September and October.
There is however much that has not been publicized -- and for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the absolute necessity of my protecting certain sources who are still in Lebanon, the fact that almost no one who has written about this has contacted me for my side of the story, as well as details about what has been said or misstated about my blog posts, which I urge you to read here, since those posts were initially criticized (as well as how that criticism has been reported).
So what happened? Briefly:
l The Huffington Post published a story on Dec. 1 criticizing my blogging while I was in Lebanon. Many other blogs picked up the story, and the story made its way into the mainstream media.
l The criticisms have been based largely on inaccurate representations, misquotations, fabrications, even profanity about what I wrote while in Lebanon. I urge all readers to read what I wrote (see facts here), then read what has been said that I wrote.
l Few publications I believe for various reasons -- have sought me out for my side of the story.
l My blog posts have strong support among the leaders and members of the pro-democracy movement in Lebanon -- here is what has been said here and here (as well as our facts page) and enormous support from readers based on the letters pouring into my inbox.
So let me tell you a bit about what's going on from my perspective:
On Nov. 6, I received a note from Tom Edsall (a correspondent for the New Republic e-mailing with a New Republic e-mail address) saying he was going to write a piece for the Huffington Post, disputing some of my posts from Lebanon and he needed me to respond "quickly."
I responded to his note in writing right away. I also phoned him. I got his voicemail. I left my phone number.
Edsall also e-mailed NRO, referring to me in the subject heading as W. Scott Thomas Jr. (Scott Thomas was the name of the New Republic's so-called Baghdad Diarist).
More than three weeks passed and Edsall still had not returned my call.
On Nov. 29, Edsall again e-mailed. He asked for my phone number, which I had left on his voicemail three weeks earlier. I sent it a second time.
NRO and I then addressed the matter, posting pieces about Edsall's planned story. The story of NRO's and my addressing the matter began running across the blogosphere.
Edsall posted his story at the Huffington Post on Dec. 1.
After his first piece was published Edsall phoned me (for the first time), telling me he was going to write a second piece, and the story continued to grow.
On Dec. 5, I made the decision to withdraw from my professional relationship with NRO, and sent them a note that day stating such. On Dec. 7, they published my open letter announcing my leaving.
I left NRO for three reasons:
1. My attackers were hounding NRO and me relentlessly (regardless of the facts), and it was I felt diminishing the focus (certainly my own) on far more critical issues like the forthcoming elections, the global war on terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.
2. As long as I was with NRO I could not openly speak without it going through NRO's understandably cautious filters, because they too had been attacked, and they had to protect their own interests. They didn't want me to seem defensive. So they asked me not to say much. They wanted me to only say things publicly after going through their filtering process. I understood that. They wanted to take the high road: Let the attackers rant. Meanwhile NRO would look inward to find their and my own shortcomings. All of that I believed and still believe -- to be honorable in spirit, though I may have disagreed with a few very minor points in terms of how to thwart the attacks they wanted to remain transparent, I wanted to fight -- if that makes sense.
3. National Review is the house that William F. Buckley built. I had and will always have -- tremendous respect for Mr. Buckley and NR/NRO, and so I decided early on that I could not allow my attackers to use me as a conduit to attack the house he built.
Is this caving in the face of the attackers? No.
I just needed more freedom to control my own situation, and I felt the need to try and deflect the attacks away from NRO, which I personally believe should bear no responsibility for my actions.
Now, what about the accusations? What exactly happened?
First, as a seasoned reporter I know what I saw, heard, witnessed, experienced, learned, etc. in Lebanon. Problem is -- while blogging fast and furious as some of us might say -- what I wrote about and had published was not packaged as thoroughly and airtight as it would have been in a regular article. And it should have been. That responsibility can be laid at the feet of no one other than me. Basically, I presented holes for my detractors to exploit (see facts here), and they have done so in a very effective way. Many have made completely false accusations publicly, it spread to those in league with them, and grew (though most of it is basically repeat, repeat, repeat by bloggers and a few reporters who never attempted to speak to me).
I also had tremendous access and incredible sources in Lebanon. There were lots of things I didn't blog about and was amazed that others were not writing or blogging about them either but what I was writing about and experiencing was often extremely sensitive and deserved better attention than I gave it, especially when it came to providing more detail, providing follow-up, and meticulously distinguishing between what I was actually seeing and experiencing, and the information I was receiving from a variety of sources (even though some of those sources, in that unusual environment, had to remain anonymous).
Thank you for your support. Please do not hesitate to contact me for more detail or with any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org.