Buzzfeed Beats Defamation Lawsuit over Trump Russia ‘Dossier’

Ben Smith editor in cheif BuzzFeed
CBS/YouTube
JOEL B. POLLAK

A federal judge in Miami threw out a defamation lawsuit Wednesday by a Russian businessman against Buzzfeed over the publication of the infamous Russia “dossier” in January 2017, saying it was protected by the “fair report privilege.”

Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev sued the left-wing click-bait publication over allegations in the dossier that he said were false. None of the dossier’s main contentions have been proven, and some have been contradicted.

The decision came a day after Buzzfeed’s defense suffered a setback when U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled that Gubarev was not a “public figure” and therefore entitled to a lower legal standard.

But Judge Ubgaro ultimately ruled that the “fair report privilege” under New York law protected Buzzfeed because the dossier was relevant to “information needed for the public to exercise effective oversight of the government,” the Hollywood Reporter noted.

Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith was exultant, declaring it vindicated Buzzfeed’s decision to publish the dossier — though it had never verified the claims in the document, which was why other outlets had refrained.

The dossier had been compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, working for the Fusion GPS opposition research firm, which had been funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the Perkins Coie law firm — without properly reporting the expenses to the Federal Elections Commission. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Steele had told a British court that he was hired to provide a basis for Clinton to challenge the election results in the even she lost.

The dossier prompted the FBI to spy on the Trump campaign, and led to more than two years of investigations, including the inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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