CNN’s Brian Stelter and BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith sat down to discuss the latter publication’s decision to publish the dossier that contains unverified allegations against Donald Trump.
“CNN did not print or quote from it, but BuzzFeed did even though the memo is full of unverified allegations, some of them known to be false,” Stelter said on his show ‘Reliable Sources” on Sunday. “Was this a violation of journalistic ethics?”
He then asked Smith whether he felt any regrets publishing the memo that had allegedly been making the rounds for months.
“Absolutely not, we proudly published it,” said Smith. “Three days later, it seems clear that it was the right thing to do … In three months, it will look even clearer.”
Smith continued, “We, like you, I think like you, like certainly other outlets, we ran across in the reporting, we’re staking out places where we thought we could get information in Europe. We’re running it down every way we could, And at some point as Harry Reid is sending a letter based on it, as government officials are taking little actions based on it, not just sort of seeing it, but acting based on it, I think there becomes an argument ‘should you print it?’ We were having that conversation internally, we had not certainly – were not close to doing that.” He added that he understands both sides of the argument but doesn’t get the “middle position.”
“The middle position is journalism!” Stelter argued.
Stelter went on to say that he is “trying to figure out if you all are Washington Post or WikiLeaks — it seems to me you are trying to be both.” He also said that there should have been more reporting around the allegations so the audience could better understand the meaning of the document, while Smith argued that he just wanted to “treat our audience with respect.”
CNN posted a story early Tuesday evening on the East Coast citing documents that included allegations that Russian operatives have compromising personal information on the president-elect, but declined to publish the raw files. BuzzFeed had no such compunction, publishing the full, unverified document from a person purporting to be a former British intelligence agent.
Stelter made sure to voice his opinions about BuzzFeed’s decision, alleging that BuzzFeed rushed out the documents shortly after CNN’s report.
Trump has since derided the memo as “fake news” and a political hit job, and belittled BuzzFeed for publishing it.
Watch the 13-minute debate above.