Politico columnist Jack Shafer says he would have done what BuzzFeed did and published the raw, unverified report alleging President-elect Donald Trump engaged in extremely graphic sexual fetishism at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow.
“If you’re asking if I would have published the raw report if I had been sitting in the editor Ben Smith’s BuzzFeed cockpit, the answer is yes,” Shafer writes in an op-ed piece called, “The Coup Before the Inauguration.”
Once the dodgy claims became part of a government report, “what other choice did they have?” he wrote.
Shafer said the reports once would not have been published without additional research:
No competent journalist publishes oppo research without confirming and placing it in context, so I stand with the major news organizations that did not publish during the campaign. But when such a report is flung about by people in power, as this one was, and its allegations are beginning to inform governance, more damage is done to trust in government and confidence in journalism by withholding it from public scrutiny. As BuzzFeed put it, they published the dodgy dossier so that “Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.” (For a view opposing Smith’s, see this Washington Post column by Margaret Sullivan.)
The unverifiable report, published in near-entirety by BuzzFeed, includes references to extremely graphic sexual fetishism and claims President-elect Trump participated in them.
Trump has described his “germophobe” tendencies counter the lurid claims presented in the dossier report.
While CNN broke news of the dossier, without publishing the memos itself, it said “CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.”
BuzzFeed published the memos and their graphic claims online.
CNN also wrote, “in preparing this story, CNN has spoken to multiple high ranking intelligence, administration, congressional and law enforcement officials, as well as foreign officials and others in the private sector with direct knowledge of the memos.”
It turns out, many other media outlets had also been pitched with the same memos for approximately six months, but decided against running with them.
Among them, David Reaboi of the Federalist, who tweeted, “‘Characteristically ferocious’ is what Buzzfeed calls being the website to run oppo that was pitched to every other site for 6 months.”
Left-wing Mother Jones’s Washington Bureau Chief David Corn noted that he did not even publish the full memos due to the uncertainty of their validity, writing “For those asking, I didn’t publish the full memos from the intelligence operative because I could not confirm the allegations.” And Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic echoed his sentiment, writing, “This report contains unverified information, sourced to anonymous figures whose existence has not been proven.”
MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” host Chuck Todd told BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith on Wednesday, “I know this was not your intent; I’ve known you for a long time. But you’ve just published fake news.”
During Wednesday’s press conference Trump basted the media, specifically BuzzFeed and CNN, and called for “honest reporters” who can show they have a “moral compass.”
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz.