Arianna Huffington, the founder and former editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, said she would not have chosen to publish the unverified intelligence report that made salacious claims about President-elect Donald Trump’s ties to Russia and his personal life unless her news organisation was able to ascertain the facts contained within the document.
BuzzFeed drew a heap of criticism for publishing, in full, the 35-page document, which contained details on Russia’s alleged attempts to compromise Trump and was reportedly compiled by a former British intelligence agent.
Trump himself denied the allegations in the report and described BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage” at a press conference this week, ominously adding that the news outlet would “suffer the consequences” for taking the decision to publish the dossier.
Other news outlets, such as CNN, were also in possession of the document — and reported on its existence — but had chosen not to publish the details until they could verify the claims.
Business Insider asked Huffington, who left The Huffington Post last year to concentrate on her wellness startup Thrive Global, whether she would have mirrored BuzzFeed and published the document in full if it had landed on her desk as an editor.
(BuzzFeed, incidentally, was founded by her former Huffington Post cofounder Jonah Peretti.)
Huffington said: “We would first try to corroborate the allegations. Both CNN and The New York Times tried to independently corroborate the dossier and couldn’t, so both decided not to publish. So if we got the dossier, tried to corroborate and failed, we would not publish. The danger of publishing unsubstantiated allegations is that they obscure real and substantiated issues, like those contained in the two-page summary the intelligence chiefs briefed President Obama and President-Elect Trump on last week.”
BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith has defended the organisation’s decision to publish the claims, saying in a memo to staff that it reflected the way BuzzFeed saw “the job of reporters in 2017.”
In an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday he said: “I think this is a place where sunlight is a disinfectant, where it is important to show your audience what you have.”
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