MEDIA
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Andrew Sullivan's McCaughey Mea Culpa Hints At Internal Struggle At The New Republic

Speaking of Betsy McCaughey, her return to the spotlight has prompted a second round of mea culpas from The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, who was the editor of The New Republic when that magazine unleashed McCaughey to broadcast her error-plagued fiesta of lies and distortion on those pages back in 1994. In a post today, Sullivan again took responsibility for the McCaughey article, saying, "...I take full responsibility for being the editor of the magazine that published the piece. I accepted an award for it. I stood behind it."

At the same time, Sullivan's post hints broadly at an institutional struggle over the piece, suggesting that McCaughey's claims might have been treated with a certain amount of skepticism were he not being pulled in another direction. Sullivan says that "internal battles" took place. He alludes to a "key paragraph" that became a "battlefield" upon which he fought and "lost." It was with McCaughey that he fought the battle, but there is a suggestion he might have "quit" over the matter. Sullivan does reiterate, later in the piece, "I was the editor; I threatened to quit on another occasion; it was my call; and I took credit for its impact; and did not criticize her (and praised her tenacity) subsequently."

Nevertheless, it raises the question: whom besides McCaughey could Sullivan have been battling? An article in the July 12, 1995 Washington Post, by Elizabeth Bumiller, offers a clue:

[McCaughey] wrote two opinion pieces for the Wall Street Journal, both admired by New Republic Publisher Martin Peretz, who asked her to come up with something for TNR in time for the State of the Union address. McCaughey, who had no background in health care, worked day and night for the next month. She says she spoke to doctors, health care economists, executives at managed care companies, some 45 people in all.

Go figure!

In a related note, Sullivan's colleague Matt Cooper is of the mind that Sullivan is still being a bit blinkered in his recollection of why health care reform foundered during the Clinton administration.

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