Trying to make sense of the hirings, firings and journalists who come and go at The New Republic can be like putting your head in a blender.
The number of public scandals that have arisen from this pub should make your head spin. They include everything from Ruth Shalit’s plagiarism in 1995 to the more severe plagiarism of Stephen Glass, whose career missteps became a movie, Shattered Glass, to the fabulously coiffed Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier, who confessed to making unwanted advances toward several women in the workplace. By the time his professional life exploded in 2014, he had spent three decades at the magazine. Women accused Wieseltier of sloppy mouth kisses and lots of sex talk in the newsroom. In one instance, he thanked a woman — in writing — for wearing a miniskirt to work. In another, he talked extensively about an ex-girlfriend’s breasts. He and his luxurious white puffy mane can sometimes be spotted strolling around the Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.
After years of countless major editorial changes, now there’s another one: Chris Lehmann, former editor-in-chief of The Baffler and ex-husband to Ana Marie Cox, is the new full-time editor, effective immediately. Lehmann will stay on with The Baffler, a cultural and political mag based in Chicago, as editor-at-large.
Lehmann will divide his time between the Manhattan and D.C. offices of TNR.
“Chris is an accomplished writer and editor in many forms, from book author to columnist to hard-hitting journalist,” said Win McCormack, The New Republic’s owner, chairman, and editor in chief said in a statement published on the site. “His knowledge of the political and cultural landscape is invaluable, and we welcome his leadership and well-rounded experience as The New Republic continues to expand its coverage.” (RELATED: TNR Says An Intern Might As Well Cover White House Press Briefings)
The move takes this old progressive rag founded in 1914 in yet another new direction. TNR used to be the “in-flight magazine of Air Force One” in the Clinton administration; smart, centrist, insidery. It’s hard to imagine that continuing under Lehmann’s influence. The April 2019 issue features a a takedown of the “evil, all-destructive reign” of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) by liberal writer Alex Pareene. (RELATED: Even If It Stinks, Alex Pareene Loves Kale)
Lehmann is obviously excited about his new role.
“The New Republic is both the nation’s best-known outlet for liberal political journalism and a premier source of thought-provoking cultural commentary,” Lehmann said. “This role will allow me to develop ideas and stories that will appeal to the magazine’s longtime subscriber base while also attracting new readers keen to engage the urgent set of issues facing the country in singularly troubled times.”
He went on: “I look forward to carrying on the unparalleled legacy of fearlessly reported investigative work and topical commentary that has made The New Republic an indispensable arbiter of left-liberal political thought.”
In the early 90s, Andrew Sullivan, an openly gay conservative Brit, was put in charge of TNR. This factoid is pretty eye-opening: After Shalit’s plagiarism debacle, the mag, in an attempt to be more careful, hired editors to be fact checkers. The one put in charge of the entire fact-checking operation was none other than Stephen Glass. It was Chuck Lane, editor of TNR between 1997 and 1999, who wound up firing Glass. Lane is now an editorial writer at The Washington Post.
To get your head around the mag’s recent history, Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes bought the publication in 2012. Two years later, Hughes replaced the beloved Franklin Foer with Gabriel Snyder, a former editor-in-chief at Gawker. There were other changes: The magazine moved from Washington to New York; 20 publications became 10; and the company turned digital. This provoked a mass exodus of editors and writers. Some 19 staff members walked along with 36 out of 39 contributing editors. In 2016, after investing $20 million into the magazine, Hughes sold it to Win McCormac, a publisher from Oregon and a co-founder of Mother Jones.
By the way, all of the aforementioned scandals pale to the one that happened in the late 40s, when The New Republic had an editor, Michael Straight, who turned out to be a KGB spy.
Which — let’s all take a deep breath — brings us to Lehmann.