BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith stood by his decision to release the Russian dossier of allegations against President-elect Donald Trump, despite Chuck Todd calling it fake news to his face.
“I know this was not your intent. I’ve known you a long time. But you just published fake news,” Todd told Smith on on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily.” Todd’s position is in line with Trump, who also called the Russian dossier “fake news” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of trash” during his first press conference as president-elect.
Smith disagreed, saying he thought his digital news outlet’s decision was “absolutely the right thing to do.”
“I think people love to throw the term fake news around to…diminish anything they don’t like. But I think this was a real story about a real document that was really being passed around between the very top officials of this country,” Smith said.
He continued: “I think in the long-term, we all have to reckon with the reality that we’ve got to engage information that is out there, true and false, do our best to verify it and be as transparent as we can with our readers about what we know, what we don’t know and what we doubt. It’s an incredibly uncomfortable thing, I think, for everybody.”
Smith said that BuzzFeed’s impulse is to “show the audience the underlying document and let them make their own decisions.”
Meanwhile, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti sent an email to staff doubling down on the site’s controversial decision. TheWrap has obtained the email:
I wanted to make sure you all saw Ben’s email about BuzzFeed News’ decision to publish the dossier alleging Trump’s ties to Russia. We stand with Ben on his decision to publish this newsworthy document, which was reported on by multiple news outlets and seen by high level government officials including the president and president-elect.
As a result of this decision, we were criticized by the incoming administration. We are not going to respond to these divisive comments, which put us in great company by the way — The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post have all been attacked. So has Meryl Streep and the cast of Hamilton, but we’d never compare ourselves to people that talented. ;
We are going to keep doing what we do best, which is deliver impactful journalism.
Thank you for your ongoing hard work.