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5 Reasons BuzzFeed’s Story Should Never Have Been Accepted by the Mainstream Media

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The Special Counsel’s office has issued a statement debunking the BuzzFeed “bombshell scoop” that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.


The story was widely regurgitated by the mainstream media, with the smallest of caveats, and then they marched full on pointing out that suborning perjury is an impeachable offense. They were excited, gleeful almost but here are five reasons they should never have reported the story in the first place. They are five red flags about Jason Leopold, one of the journalists behind the story, that meant they should not run a story on the report without independent verification. These are Jason Leopold’s five red flags:

1. In 2006 Leopold ran a detailed story stating that Karl Rove had been informed he was about to be indicted for leaking the name of CIA agent Valarie Plame. The story stated very authoritatively that Rove himself had “told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials,” that he was going to be charged. The indictment never happened. Just like the Trump story, Leopold said he had multiple sources for a story that turned out not to be true. 

2. Of course anyone can make a mistake and maybe Leopold was misled by his “multiple sources” but in another story it looks like Leopold was involved in fraud and forgery of documents bolstering a story. In a 2002 story for Salon about energy company Enron, Leopold quoted a damning email which the subject of the story denied ever writing. After much prevaricating, Leopold eventually produced a “faxed copy of the email” with no headers or other identifying details. He never produced an original. The story was eventually removed from Salon’s archive.


3. Sources he quotes say he never spoke to them. In the same story Leopold claims he was given information by a source but the source denied this. 

Leopold told Salon’s editors his phone bill would show the calls to the source. Again after much prevaricating, Leopold produced the phone bill and it showed just one call - less than a minute long and it occurred five days after he submitted the first draft of the story.

4. Leopold has plagiarized stories. Salon found he had lifted almost verbatim 480 words from a Financial Times story.

Leopold apparently submitted a forged document to cover his plagiarism. He told Salon that he had not plagiarized the FT story because the FT story was in fact based on a Dow Jones story that he had originally written. He sent them a copy of a story that he claimed the FT had ripped off. Salon and Dow Jones could find no record of Leopold’s alleged “original” story in the Dow Jones archive, however. 

5. Leopold can’t even be truthful when he tries to confess to not being truthful. In 2005 Leopold wrote a confessional memoir. He wrote about how he “engaged in lying, cheating and backstabbing…and was looking for a path to redemption.” However just days before the book's release, the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, pulled it off the shelves after one of the sources quoted in the book claimed Leopold made up quotes. 


In truth the mainstream media should never have run the BuzzFeed story without verifying it themselves. It is just too serious a claim to report without proof that they themselves should have seen and checked. But they didn’t care. We hear a lot about how President Trump has apparently damaged institutions and democracy. The media claim he is “ethically challenged.” But perhaps the real story to emerge from this presidency is how the media is ethically challenged and have thrown all standards aside in their desire to bring the president down.

Phelim McAleer is a journalist and filmmaker. His film Gosnell -The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer is released on DVD Feb 5th

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