Buzzfeed’s unethical publishing of an unverified dossier alleging numerous salacious acts committed by President Donald Trump angered CNN anchor Jake Tapper.
Emails released as part of a lawsuit reveal the CNN anchor told Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith that publishing the document “makes the story less serious and credible” and “damaged its impact,” according to a review of the emails by The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross.
So, reporting on the unverified document from the angle that the president-elect was briefed on it was fine, but publishing the unverified document “damaged its impact.”
“That was pretty uncollegial[.] Not to mention irresponsible[.] No one has verified this stuff,” Tapper wrote Smith in an email on January 10, 2017.
CNN had run a story about President-Elect Donald Trump being briefed on parts of the dossier, and used that to bring the unverified gossip document into the nation’s attention. Shortly after the CNN report, Buzzfeed published the dossier in full, which had been circulating among newsrooms for the months prior, but wasn’t published because no one could verify any of its claims. But reporting on it from the angle that Trump was briefed on the dossier allowed the media to get around that problem.
Smith responded to Tapper’s email by saying it “was not an easy call” to decide to publish the dossier.
“Collegiality wise it was you stepping on my dick,” Tapper said in return. “You could have waited til morning.”
“Professionally this is unverified info[.] Your guys unlike us don’t even seem to know who the former agent i[s],” Tapper added. Smith responded by saying “of course” he knew who that “former agent” was.
A federal judge had ordered the emails’ release as part of an order to unseal documents relating to a lawsuit from Russian businessman Aleksej Gubarev, who was mentioned in the dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele. Gubarev was alleged in the dossier to have used his businesses to hack Democrats’ computers, a charge he denied. Gubarev filed a lawsuit against Buzzfeed for publishing the claims, which eventually removed the mention of the Russian from the dossier it published. Gubarev lost his defamation suit against Buzzfeed.
Buzzfeed certainly took away from CNN’s “bombshell” report on the dossier, but publishing the full document did two things: (1) it showed just how much the media wanted to damage the incoming Republican president, and (2) it showed how absurd the contents were.
So, yes, it “damaged its impact” when people were able to see the 35-page dossier, which read more like a grocery store tabloid. It also helped launch the claims of “fake news” when the media decided to side-step ethics in order to report on unverified gossip against a Republican. One can’t imagine such a dossier being reported on or published if the target were an incoming Democrat president.
This also began the media’s present failures to verify any reporting when it damages Trump. Now, media outlets report non-news or unverified news from the angle that someone is investigating it, therefore it must have happened or is bad.