Buzzfeed News Struggles With Credibility After Disputed Report

Online outlet's "major scoop" is in limbo after special prosecutor's office

Does BuzzFeed Have What It Takes to Go Public?
(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Thursday night, Buzzfeed News posted a scoop that industry insiders were quick to compare to the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and hailed as a “smoking gun” that could buttress the case to impeach President Trump.

That scoop? Sources told the outlet that special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III, had evidence that President Trump had instructed his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen to lie to Congress.

The only problem was that the following day, a spokesperson for Mueller took the rare step of issuing a public denial, throwing the reliability of the entire report into question.

BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith defended his reporters’ work, but as his team scrambles to figure out which part of their report the Mueller office was debunking, the public rebuke has dealt a major blow to the site’s credibility.

And that comes at a time when public trust in the media is very much frayed.

“In their race to get ahead of Mr. Mueller with news that will please much of the electorate while also driving clicks and ratings, however, journalists throughout the media have produced their share of misfires and unforced errors,” writes The New York Times‘s Jim Rutenberg. “Each mistake has been a gift to the president, providing fodder for his case that any unflattering reporting about him amounts to ‘fake news,’ and that the special counsel’s investigation is nothing but a ‘witch hunt.’”

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