It was supposed to be the deal-breaker that would finally indict and impeach Donald Trump. Little did people realize, the media reporting it had a shady past.
This past Thursday, a BuzzFeed News report by jouralist Anthony Cormier and editor-in-chief Ben Smith claimed, based upon two anonymous sources, that President Donald Trump told his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to lie about the timeline of talks on a Trump Tower Moscow project. Soon after, news spread all over the airwaves, with the word “impeach,” or a form of it, uttered a combined 200 times on CNN and MSNBC. CNN mentioned impeachment 82 times while MSNBC mentioned it a whopping 97 times. The media took the BuzzFeed story and ran with it, like hungry wolves looking for any kind of dirt on a President who, whether they like to admit or not, keeps upping their viewership and clicks on a daily basis.
Even after denials from the Trump camp that the story was "fake news" and built on lies, the media continued their assaultive nature and made the reality that Trump made Cohen lie seem truer and truer by the hour. As soon as you knew it, there were calls for investigations to be opened tout-de-suite, with even Democrat lawmaker Adam Schiff, already in charge of a committee investigating trump’s ties to Russia, joining in on the madness by tweeting, "The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true."
However, what happened next was completely shocking and unpredictable. Robert Mueller‘s Special Counsel Office, the very people investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, did the unthinkable: they debunked the Buzzfeed story. Mueller has turned into the poster boy for the resistance against Trump, with Trump’s most vehement haters all but showering Mueller with God-like praise ever since he launched his investigation back in May 17th of 2017. Terms like ”It’s Mueller-Time” have become synonymous with Twitterverse vocabulary. However, now, the man most of the left deemed to be have the most ethically-driven persona imaginable, even though he doesn't deserve that reputation at all, stated that the story that MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times and company thought would be the smoking gun to impeach President Trump was “not accurate.” Those were the special counsel's exact words.
I wasn’t surprised, but most of the media reacted to Mueller’s debunking akin to the death of a loved one. However, they only had to look at the actual source to realize that they were duped, again. You see, one has to only go back to January 10th of 2017 and the publishing of the infamous Steele dossier to realize that BuzzFeed has been guilty of this kind of epic bout of unprofessional journalism before.
The aforementioned dossier included the story that Trump was working as Russia’s puppet because they had video of him getting peed on by Russian prostitutes in the same Moscow hotel where Barack and Michelle Obama once stayed in. It was circulating among “the highest levels of American government and media” for months before BuzzFeed decided to publish it. In other words, well-known media outlets, I presume the usual warhorses like The New York Times, The Washington Post etc, had in their possession Christopher Steele’s dossier for weeks, maybe even months, before BuzzFeed decided to publish it. And so, you may ask, how come they never published it but BuzzFeed did? The answer is simple: they most likely didn’t believe or couldn’t corroborate any of the info that was included in the dossier. It says everything that not even the President of the United States was briefed on it. BuzzFeed didn’t care about all that. They lacked the journalistic integrity of those other media outlets, they saw it as click-bait and ran with it.
Soon after, all the medias that refused to publish the dossier were justifiably pissed off, calling out BuzzFeed for their lack of journalistic integrity. Margaret Sullivan, of The Washington Post, wrote that Ben Smith had plunged “down a slippery ethical slope from which there is no return.” Erik Wemple, also of The Washington Post, said that it set a dangerous precedent because the information was “unverified" and needed "further investigating." The Atlantic's David A. Graham wrote that publishing the documents represented “an abdication of the basic responsibility of journalism.” John Podhoretz, a Trump hater, wrote in the New York Post, “At a moment when journalists are up in arms about ‘fake news,’ what BuzzFeed has done here is take fake news to a new level.” David Corn of Mother Jones, who had reported on the dossier's existence just a few months prior, tweeted its publishing was “unfair to Trump,” and even CNN's Jake Tapper said that the publishing of the report "hurts us all" as journalists. And on and on and on, there were hundreds such examples of journalists flabbergasted by BuzzFeed's decision.
Fact of the matter is this, the dossier was unsubstantiated information from anonymous and uncorroborated sources. In fact, it still hasn’t been corroborated in any way shape or form. Nearly 30 months after its publication there is no evidence that any of the events written by Steele in the dossier actually happened.
So why are we all surprised that the latest “breaking news” from BuzzFeed turned out to be “fake news”? More importantly, when did BuzzFeed start becoming the go-to spot for political news? Their journalistically unethical behavior, dealing with these two immense stories concerning Donald Trump make the President’s case for “fake news” more palatable to his followers, and make his calling the mainstream media the "enemy of the American people“ back in October, a little less crazy than perceived.
The case against BuzzFeed news is further valued when you add into the equation that the lead reporter of the Tump/Cohen story, Jason Leopold, was accused as a “serial fabulist” by none other than the Columbia Journalism Review. Furthermore, in 2006 Leopold shook Washington D.C. in 2006 when he claimed that Karl Rove told “President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials” that he would be indicted for leaking Valerie Plame’s name to the media. Leopold much like this latest ‘fake news” fiasco, promised that he had multiple sources that “confirmed Rove’s indictment is imminent. Of course, the “sources” wanted to remain anonymous.
Fast forward to March 2005, when Leopold’s memoir, Off the Record, was set to be released. In the book, according to Howard Kurtz, Leopold says that he details his own “lying, cheating and backstabbing,” and comes clean about how he got fired from the Los Angeles Times and quit Dow Jones just before they fired him because, as he said, it “Seems I got all of the facts wrong” on a story about Enron.
Rowman & Littlefield, the book’s publisher, cancelled production just before it went to press after one of the book’s sources threatened to sue. That source, Steven Maviglio, who was a spokesman for California Governor Gray Davis, said that Leopold “just got it completely wrong” when recounting how he allegedly told Leopold that he “might have broken the law by investing in energy companies using inside information.”
Oh, and it gets much worse. The day after the story broke, the second reporter of the BuzzFeed story told CNN that he hadn’t “personally” seen up the claim that Trump told Cohen to lie in front of congress. This then had Leopold calling his colleague a “liar,” claiming to MSNBC that he had seen documents. Who would you seriously believe in a case like this?
BuzzFeed is still about very much a media organization built on clickbait, and it’s only been a few years since they actually decided to hire political journalists, which has had them mix in political news with their usual clickbait material. The election of Donald Trump was a goldmine for them, a way for them to enhance the monetary value of their news section by publishing stories that the rest of the mainstream media are too scared to touch. And so, they now proudly have political news stories mixed in with their usual classic clickbait lists such as 15 Hedgehogs With Things That Look Like Hedgehogs, Which Disney Non-Princess Are You?, 10 Signs Your Cat is a Wizard, 20 Things That Will Make You Say NOOOOOOO!, 13 Potatoes That Look Like Channing Tatum, What Type Of Fall Sweater Are You?, 11 Delightful Poems Found In PornHub Comments and ... ok, ok, ok, as much as I'm having fun here, I'll stop.
BuzzFeed is “popular” media, not “reputable” media. Their news department is in the business of making in-depth reporting payed for by that clickbait money. The fact of the matter is this: putting Donald Trump in any of your headlines these days can be qualified as clickbait. BuzzFeed is in the business of clickbait, no matter how ethically-driven their journalists may be. Ben Smith is in the business of making money and growing the BuzzFeed news division into some kind of money-making endeavor. The fact that many news organizations have now decided that Smith’s enterprise is a reliable source for news makes it all the more damaging for the media’s claim that they don’t produce “fake news.”