Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, and the Huffington Post have been following the case of W. Thomas Smith Jr. and the idiotic stories out of Lebanon he’s written for National Review Online. As has been noted, at least two American reporters who work in Lebanon notified National Review long ago about the fact that some of Smith’s work was fiction, yet no action was taken.
One of the reporters who contacted National Review was Chris Allbritton, who is currently in Australia. I reached him there by email and he told me that he contacted National Review on October 6 regarding Thomas Smith Jr. Lacking a direct email for either Smith or NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez, he sent his blistering note to [email protected], the general address for NRO’s military blog, where Smith was posting his stories. Allbritton told me that unless he somehow missed it, he never received a reply, and certainly, National Review continued to publish Smith’s tripe.
Here is Allbritton’s October 6 email:
Your posts by W. Thomas Smith Jr. are hilarious! Great fiction reading.
Such as this one:
The general briefed me regarding the battlefield at Nahr al-Bared, near his camp, and what I would see today as the first American journalist to visit the site of Lebanon’s defeat of Al Qaeda-affiliate Fatah al Islam.
You do know that almost every American journalist living in Beirut has been up to Nahr el-Bared several times during and after the fighting? I myself filed stories for the Washington Times and the Newark Star-Ledger, the day after the fighting stopped–and I was in a hell of a lot more danger than your man is in today…
You know, for a publication that went after the New Republic so hard for its soldier-in-Iraq stuff, your guy here is horribly, horribly inaccurate and sensationalist. I’m an American and I never have bodyguards and never needed one. He is making Beirut seem much more dangerous than it is. He also is–as are you, since I assume he’s expensing it–getting fleeced by some Lebanese con artists. He doesn’t need weapons and he’s making a big problem by carrying them and publicly writing about his “recon missions” in the Dahiyah. That’s not what journalists do; it’s what spies do, and by his actions, he’s making everyone suspicious of western journalists. That is the height of irresponsibility.
Secondly, he’s a liar. Hezbollah never invaded east Beirut on the 29th. And they don’t have 200 “heavily armed” militiamen downtown. I passed by today. There are about 40 guys down there with no weapons at all. They sit around smoking shisha in jeans and t-shirts.
Perhaps your man in Beirut should not rely solely on March 14 guys and get a wider perspective. And stop lying and making careless errors. It’s your credibility on the line, after all.