By Mark Hensch –
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Wednesday scolded BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief for publishing uncorroborated allegations about President-elect Donald Trump.
“I know this was not your intent,” Todd told BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith during a segment on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily,” adding, “I’ve known you a long time, but you just published fake news. You made a knowing decision to put out an untruth.”
Smith countered that BuzzFeed has a responsibility to report on Trump and his alleged ties to Russia.
“I think people love to throw the phrase ‘fake news’ around to diminish anything they don’t like,” he said. “I think this is a real story about a real document. You see these things spread and you have to engage them.”
“When top officials are making decisions on it, not just seeing it, I think it’s appropriate to let your audience see it and say whether they think it’s nonsense,” he added.
Todd pushed back on Smith’s explanation, asking whether BuzzFeed’s decision had hurt the media’s integrity overall.
“There was a line,” the MSNBC anchor said. “When does the line become yelling ‘fire’ in a theater? Transparency can turn into a crutch, can turn into laziness.”
BuzzFeed published a controversial document late Tuesday alleging Russia’s government has compromising financial and personal information on Trump. It also claims that people close to Trump kept touch with Moscow during the 2016 presidential race.
However, U.S. intelligence officials have not verified the contents of the document, which BuzzFeed published in full.
And CNN, which broke news Tuesday that a summary of the document had been included in briefing materials for Trump last week, did not mention specific allegations included in the document, noting that they had not been verified.
Trump fiercely denied the dossier’s contents on Wednesday during his first press conference in six months. The president-elect harshly criticized BuzzFeed’s publication of the document, slamming the website as a “failing pile of garbage.”
“I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to public,” he said at Trump Tower in New York.
“As far as BuzzFeed, which his a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequences. They already are.”