The Naked Truth of a Conservative Activist (And Former Porn Star)

Matt Sanchez, a 36-year-old Marine reservist and undergraduate student at Columbia University, who won a commendation from the American Conservative Union in March, is the last person most of us would expect to be the star of such cinematic fare as Patriot AssDonkey Dick, and the more spiritual offering, Touched by an Anal.

“People want to put me in a box,” said the Corporal, who arrived on the scene a few months ago with a New York Post column that denounced what he characterized as poor treatment, and even harassment, of the military at Columbia University. “They can’t.”

Indeed, it would be hard to box up the overflowing bundle of contradictions inherent in a man who made love to the camera, and to everything else, in a series of same-sex porn flicks in the early 1990s, only to resurface more than a decade later as a conservative Marine who received a special commendation for academic freedom at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

But the novelty of what some perceive as a conflict in his character could be fading as the California native, a journalist by trade, approaches 37. His work from the Middle East, where Sanchez has been traveling on a New York press pass since May, has been published, or cited, by Human EventsWeekly Standard, and HotAir.com. Now, six months after the scandal broke that could have ruined his career, Sanchez seems to be headed for a comeback.

The Comeback

For the past three months, he has traveled as an embedded reporter to U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf, particularly in Iraq. He has met with U.S. troops and seen firsthand what he characterizes as their frustration with the current war coverage. “They barely watch the news,” he said. “They think the news is really bad.”

His answer is a website, Matt-Sanchez.com, where Sanchez reports what he perceives as the untold story of U.S. successes. He interviews the soldiers on the ground, not the bureaucrats in Washington, and the result is a more optimistic and, Sanchez says, more accurate, account of the war.

He has covered the otherwise sparsely reported Operation Arrowhead, our largest engagement in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and the reconstruction of Fallujah, a city that, in his mind, has been unfairly characterized as a failure. He made that point in a piece titled, “Fallujah and Fantasy: Setting the Record Straight.”

Meanwhile, he has documented the trip in short, unscripted movies intended to put a human face on the action. In “Car Bomb,” some troops uncover an IED. They surround a suspicious vehicle in “Don’t Double Park in Iraq.” The series, titled “In Their Own Words,” is available on LiveLeak.com.

Role in the Beauchamp Scandal

But the crowning achievement of his venture to Iraq has been the meticulous way in which Sanchez has helped to dispatch Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the 23-year-old U.S. Army private that painted a sour picture of U.S. troops in a series of New Republic articles attributed to the “Baghdad Diarist.” In one, Beauchamp, a soldier stationed at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Falcon, a short distance from Baghdad, recounted the tale of a U.S. soldier who had intentionally run over dogs with his Bradley Fighting Vehicle. In another, he wrote of a female contractor with a “melted” face, the victim of an IED, whose facial burns Beauchamp and a number of other U.S. troops had mocked, openly, in a Falcon mess hall.

But some elements of the stories seemed suspicious to Sanchez, particularly when he arrived at FOB Falcon to interview camp personnel on July 31. The accounts he heard never seemed to corroborate the one supplied by the “Baghdad Diarist.” Far from a cruel place where servicemen came unhinged from the moorings of civilization and descended into the “Heart of Darkness,” FOB Falcon was, according to Sanchez, a calm, and collected, crew. “[The troops] are very proficient at getting the job done,” he said. “I’m actually very impressed.”

Sanchez remained on the ground at FOB Falcon as the story continued to unravel in the United States, where Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb led the charge to discredit Beauchamp’s stories. While Goldfarb induced a slow bleed in Washington, Sanchez piled on in Iraq. He helped to dispel the misconduct rumors with interviews posted to his website under the headline “The Real FOB Falcon.”

Sanchez, planted on the scene, sized up the base and realized that, at a place as small as Fort Falcon, where people had recognized him from his last visit a month earlier, it should have been easy to spot a female contractor with a damaged face. He had not spotted one — and neither had anyone else.

“Right now it is considered to be an urban legend or myth,” Major Renee Russo, a public affairs official in Kuwait, wrote a short time later to Confederate Yankee’s Bob Owens.

For Sanchez, the note must have been a confirmation of what he, and a number of other reporters following the story, already knew. His hunch had been correct, and his presence on the ground an important factor in “destroying,” as Bryan Preston put it at HotAir.com, the contractor story, which the New Republic retracted, and reset in Kuwait, when Beauchamp, who must have seen the writing on the wall, remembered new details.

Finally, Sanchez broke the August 3 news that Beauchamp’s three New Republic stories, which had creaked and moaned for days, had finally collapsed under the scrutiny of a U.S. Army investigation – a scoop that earned Sanchez more headlines at HotAir.com. For the second time in a six-month span, he had won some acclaim, at least in circles skeptical of Beauchamp’s story. “I’m very proud that I helped to debunk the ‘Baghdad Diarist,’” he said.

Continuing Questions

But in spite of what some perceive as his virtuoso performance in the Beauchamp episode, Sanchez still has his critics. “The incident that Matt Sanchez has become somewhat of a minor celebrity for misrepresenting was quite different than he described,” says Monique Dols, a Columbia student whose November 2006 encounter with Sanchez at the university’s Activities Day inspired his piece in the New York Post.

Dols, president of Columbia’s International Socialist Organization (ISO), a club now famous for storming the stage during a Minute Men presentation, says Sanchez was not harassed, but rather was confronted for his participation in R.O.T.C. recruitment, a practice that had been banned on campus. “Matt has made up quite a different story,” she said.

His venture to Iraq has been a matter of some controversy, too. In March, while the media seemed preoccupied with the porn scandal, the Marine Corps quietly investigated Corporal Sanchez, who, it contended, had attempted to solicit $300 from the New York City United Veterans Council and $12,000 from the U-Hall Corporation to bankroll an official deployment to Iraq that never happened, according to the Marine Corps Times.

Sanchez contended that the incident as a misunderstanding, but the inquisitor in the case, staff judge advocate Colonel Charles Jones, concluded on April 1 that the corporal had misrepresented his combat status to N.Y.C.U.V. and U-Hall, and had “wrongfully solicited funds to support [his] purported deployment to Iraq.”

Sanchez made the trip to Iraq as a reporter, not as a Marine, in May. For some, the fact that his trip took place at all has added some credence to his claim that the Middle East excursion had always been intended as a civilian venture, and that his problems with N.Y.C.U.V. and U-Hall had been the product of a misunderstanding. For his critics, though, questions remained. “The facts are very much at odds with his claims,” said Charles Wilson, founder of CplSanchez.info. “It is impossible to be anything but skeptical about the guy.”

Decent Exposure

With this warning in mind, it seems naïve to accept Sanchez at face value. No sooner has one picture of the Corporal emerged than it springs a leak with inconsistencies and makes room for another, more complicated person. He cannot, as he mentioned in our first interview, be put into a box. “I’m a human being,” he said in March. “I’m complicated, like everyone else.”

But he seems to have played at least one role consistently in the past three months: the consistent war correspondent. While it remains unclear whether Sanchez can shed his baggage, one thing is certain: His Iraq reporting has earned the star of Laid to Order some decent exposure.

Dorian Davis is a writer in New York.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, the author incorrectly described Mr. Sanchez as a graduate student. He is, in fact, working toward getting an undergraduate degree.

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