The Purge

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

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.