Political Animal


January 29, 2013 1:07 PM The Purge

By Ed Kilgore

Anyone even vaguely familiar with political magazines is having a lot of fun today mocking this immensely stupid report from the Washington Free Beacon, under the headline “Hughes Drops Jews”:

The New Republic has quietly dropped at least five prominent Jewish writers from its masthead in a move that may signal the publication’s continued drift away from a staunchly pro-Israel standpoint.
The magazine has launched an aggressive new editorial direction under the ownership of wealthy socialite Chris Hughes, who is best known for sharing a room with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard University.
The names of several prominent Jewish writers from both the left and right of the political spectrum were dropped from TNR’s masthead in the latest issue.
They include: Daily Beast reporter Eli Lake, longtime TNR columnist James Kirchick, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, and onetime senior editor Lawrence Kaplan. Complicating the picture, former TNR editor Peter Beinart was also dropped from the masthead. Beinart is the publisher of Open Zion, an anti-Zionist Daily Beast blog sponsored by the New America Foundation.

Aside from the stupidity of implying that Peter Beinart’s not Jewish, the report, as Jonathan Chait quickly pointed out, confuses a periodic purge of non-contributors from the ranks of TNR’s Contributing Editors with some sort of actual purge of writers. And as both Chait and Wonkette noted with great amusement, any alleged purge of Jews at TNR leadership has been extremely unsuccessful.

I’ll add a personal note that further illustrates the deep research conducted by the Free Beacon staff before they hurled allegations of anti-semitism at Hughes: their sleuths seemed to have missed the fact that an entire category of writers, called Special Correspondents, were dropped from the TNR masthead during the magazine and website’s redesign. I know, because I was one of them, along with Tom Edsall, Gabriel Sherman, Walter Shapiro, Joshua Kurlantzick, Jesse Zwick and Charles Homans (there may have been others, too; I just went by who turned up in a Google search). What this meant is that TNR had decided to no longer give any “outside writers” (e.g., non-staff members) a presumptive right of publication. So now we have to pitch editors on anything we want to appear at TNR.

The point here is that anyone paying the least bit of attention in Washington knew that TNR had undergone a change in ownership and editorship that would soon produce a redesign and a relaunch. Masthead changes, particularly in spots below the senior editorship, are inevitably part of that process. As with anything in political journalism today, some people gained and some people lost (I lost my presumptive right of publication, but it appears that if I do publish there in the future, the pay rate’s a lot better). But it takes someone unbelievably obtuse and malicious to glance at that process and deduce that TNR, of all places, was “dropping Jews.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Anonymous on January 29, 2013 1:26 PM:

    Though it would be kinda nice if TNR dropped that staunchly pro-Israel standpoint....

  • Ron Byers on January 29, 2013 2:05 PM:

    Everyday the writers at the Washington Free Beacon have to write something. Today's entry in the fiction department is the New Republic is purging Jews.

    Though I have to agree with Anonymous that it would be nice if TNR droppped its unquestioning pro-Israel stance. At the very least it would allow a fresh airing of multiple viewpoints honoring the vibrant debate that seems to be cherished in Israel.

  • Will Smirk 4 Food on January 29, 2013 2:17 PM:

    Obsessing about Jews? Are you sure it's not the Washington Free Bacon?

  • Keith M Ellis on January 29, 2013 3:21 PM:

    "Though it would be kinda nice if TNR dropped that staunchly pro-Israel standpoint...."

    With Peretz gone, that could only get better. However, the deeper problem, which Kinsley took to Slate and which has long been baked into TNR's DNA, is the "contrarianism moves issues and generates buzz" ethos.

    I admire a tendency toward iconclasm in service to the truth, but that easily becomes a sensationalist contrarianism in many people and institutions.

  • rea on January 29, 2013 4:28 PM:

    Another point worthy of note about the Free Beacon article is this:

    reinstalled former editor Franklin Foer, who had left after presiding over a scandal surrounding a series of fabricated reports from Iraq.

    This is a reference to the Beauchamp affair, of course. Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq (and married to a journalist) wrote a series of articles that protrayed his fellow soldiers engaging in small cruelties, like running over a dog. The right denounced this as impossible, and several soldiers in Beauchamp's unit, including his sergeant, stepped forward to claim that Beauchamnp was a liar. TNR retracted, and Foer left.

    But then came the sequel: the sergeant and several other soldiers from Beauchamp's were convicted of first degree murder of Iraqi civilians, which rather shines a different light on Beauchamnp's credibility. And of course, it's ratehr misleading of the Free Beacon to talk about "fabricated reports" without mentioning Beauchamp's name or explaining the sequel.

  • Vicente Fox on January 29, 2013 4:56 PM:

    Krauthammer needed to get back to The Walking Dead set.

  • gaylib on January 29, 2013 5:36 PM:

    I think it has to be mentioned as well that Hughes is gay. One of the wingnuts favorite conspiracy theories is that Hitler and the nazis were gay and that the "gay agenda" is their legacy.