Via InstaPundit, the intrepid reporter whose site insinuated that the photo of John Kerry sitting alone in a chow hall in Iraq was itself bogus, has now verified that the photo is real, but the absence of troops in it is misleading:

Specifically, it turns out that Kerry was at that table to conduct an off-the-record breakfast discussion with two reporters, so there would have been no reason whatsover for troops to be sitting with them. In fact, Kerry and the reporters even sought out empty seats, I’m told.

And he backs it up by talking to the reporters involved. So it turns out that Kerry et al sought out the empty table to have a private conversation. That makes sense to me, so I hereby retract calling Sen. Kerry “lonely.” He wasn’t lonely. I apologize for the error.

The paragraph that preceeds TPM’s revelation, however, is a laugher:

The wingers spent many, many hours on this photo, trying to prove its authenticity. I’m not going to dispute that it’s authentic. Rather, I’m here to report that I’ve now contacted at least two people who say they were at the table with Kerry. And it’s clear that the winger characterization of the photo is entirely bogus.

It was, of course, our friends on the left who insisted that the photo itself was bogus by challenging facts of Kerry’s travel schedule, the data embedded in the photo, the decorations on the walls around him, etc, forcing our other friends at Powerline and elsewhere to prove that, yes indeed, that is a chow hall in Iraq, and yes indeed, Kerry was there at the specified time in question, yes indeed, most people don’t set the dates on their digital cameras, yes indeed, the decorations are there as in the photo, and yes indeed, there is a Portuguese flag hanging there even though Portugal has no troops in Iraq anymore. Our friends on the left toss up silly conspiracy theories with multiple moving parts, our friends on the right spend hours and hours shooting said conspiracy theories down. That’s just how it works most of the time. Good for Mr. Sargent at TPM for taking a route that’s a little friendlier to facts and leaves no room for conspiracies in what should be the final accounting of this photo.

But that said, again, I retract calling Sen. Kerry “lonely” and regret the error.