On January 10, 2017, Buzzfeed News released the Trump dossier documenting allegations about the Russian government supporting the President-elect for years before his run for the White House.
The dossier, less than a month old at this time, is a document most news networks have held back from reporting on due to the unverified nature of the document’s holdings. Consisting of memos prepared by a former British intelligence operative, the document describes Russians allegedly giving information about Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to the former operative.
Buzzfeed News has maintained their stance on publishing the full document.
“BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document 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.”
The Buzzfeed CEO, Jonah Peretti, stands behind that decision by calling the document in question a “newsworthy document.”
On the opposing side, media columnist Michael Wolff wrote for the ethical implications surrounding the choice to publish.
“This seems preposterous, appalling, opportunistic, and lacking in basic ethics at every level. Ethics are simple: you shouldn’t publish what you don’t know to be true.”
Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith explained in an email that the memos were published to adhere to Buzzfeed’s take on journalism as a company.
“Our presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers…”
Smith went on to write in the same email: “As we noted in our story, there is serious reason to doubt the allegations. We have been chasing claims in this document for weeks, and will continue to.”
Not long after, President-elect Trump sent out a tweet.
“FAKE NEWS-A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” the message read.
Later on, Trump tweeted an article from Lifezette, a conservative website, with the headline being: “Buzzfeed Runs Unverifiable Trump-Russia Claims’ #FakeNews.”
Wikileaks reacted negatively and dismissed the memos as well, stating that “a 35 page PDF published by Buzzfeed on Trump is not an intelligence report. Style, facts & dates show no credibility.”
Michael Cohen, one of Trump’s lawyers, was included in a piece of the document as it accused Cohen of having secretly met with Kremlin officials in August 2016. The document stated that Cohen had met the officials in Prague, which Cohen denied on Twitter afterward, stating that “I have never been to Prague in my life.”
When asked if any legal action would be taken towards Buzzfeed, Cohen stated he would “take it under advisement.”
Editor-in-chief Smith attempted to independently confirm that Cohen had been in Prague at the time and not in New York and Los Angeles as Cohen had stated when accused, but declined to respond to Cohen’s claims on having never been to the city.
Currently, the incident is still on Twitter for users to publicly view, including Ben Smith’s aforementioned email and the colorful commentary by numerous Twitter users. Most users left harsh comments and suggestions, such as user Alex Berezow’s (@AlexBerezow) comment.
“People like you, @BuzzFeedBen, are the reason the public no longer trusts journalists. Delete your account. And get a new job.”
User Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) mocked the dossier and it’s unconfirmed contents. “ I have a dossier that claims you’re a serial killer. I will be publishing it soon so that the public can make up its mind.”