Washington Post CEO and Exec Editor Used Stolen Phone Records While at Sunday Times, Former Colleagues Say

Journalist Peter Koenig says Will Lewis was one of his finest editors before “his ambition outran his ethics”

Will Lewis, CEO of Washington Post
Washington Post CEO Will Lewis (Credit: Getty Images)

The Washington Post’s new CEO Will Lewis has another scandal on his hands, this time being accused of using stolen phone records to assign stories while business editor at The Sunday Times in London.

Former Sunday Times reporter Peter Koenig said Friday that his then-editor Lewis once assigned him a story that relied on phone records that were obtained by hacking, according to a New York Times report Saturday.

“His ambition outran his ethics,” Koenig, who otherwise remembered Lewis as one of his finest editors, said of his former colleague. Lewis assigned Koenig the story in 2004. A U.K. businessman additionally said that his records had been stolen while being written about in the article.

The Sunday Times also published a 2002 story written by Lewis’ incoming Washington Post executive editor Robert Winnett that similarly relied on stolen phone records. A private investigator who worked at the Sunday Times publicly acknowledged using “deception to land the materials,” the New York Times reported.

The update came after last week’s report from NPR, in which Lewis was accused of trying to kill a story based on phone hacking allegations. Media reporter David Folkenflik wrote that he was offered an exclusive in exchange for spiking an article about Lewis’ involvement in alleged hacking by Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloids.

“In several conversations, Lewis repeatedly — and heatedly — offered to give me an exclusive interview about the Post’s future, as long as I dropped the story about the allegations,” Folkenflik wrote. “An explicit offer was on the table: drop the story, get the interview.”

“I thought the audacity of the offer was notable,” he continued. “And given what’s playing out right now at The Post, I thought it was worth noting in public.”

Lewis denied the allegations, explaining that he was summoned to clear up an existing mess, not to destroy evidence himself.

Folkenflik’s piece came out amid Sally Buzbee exiting The Post as executive editor. The outlet since updated its staff on planned restructuring around a so-called “Third Newsroom.”

“Having listened to you this week, the most common theme by far was the Third Newsroom,” Lewis wrote in a Friday memo to staff. “Many of you asked for more details about how we would monetize it and who would work in it. A number of you also wanted to know what the Third Newsroom means for your current roles and where certain teams (such as video and audio) would sit.”

The continued turmoil at The Post came as Lewis works to course-correct recent losses — $77 million in a year.

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