UK newspapers have followed Buzzfeed’s lead and published unverified allegations about Donald Trump based on a leaked “intelligence dossier” – albeit accompanied by strong denials.
Buzzfeed’s decision to publish the, sometimes sordid, dossier in full yesterday led to criticism of the website.
Chief digital officer of Conde Nast International and former Guardian executive Wolfgang Blau said on Twitter: “Rare that a story stinks from every possible angle: the source, the content, the consequence, the messenger, the target.”
Wikileaks tweeted that it has “a 100% record of accurate authentication. We do not endorse Buzzfeed’s publication of a document which is clearly bogus”.
Independent deputy managing editor Will Gore said “the wholesale dump of unverified information by others, in the interests – it is argued – of transparency” is a “journalistic cop-out”.
The 35-page dossier has apparently been widely circulated amongst the media and outlets, including The Guardian, have failed to publish details because of lack of verification. It has been compiled by an unidentified individual who is described as a former UK intelligence agent.
Yesterday (Tuesday) CNN reported: “Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information”
But it did not go into detail of the claims.
Buzzfeed then published a link to the full dossier, which the briefing CNN referred to was apparently based upon.
Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said he published the “explosive and unverified” document so that “Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government”.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 11, 2017
At time of writing (12.30pm), UK newspaper titles the Mirror, Mail, Sun and Express have reported the most lurid details of the dossier – accompanied by denials from Trump and the Kremlin – as has the Huffington Post.
The Independent and Guardian have reported some of the detail, along with the denials, the Telegraph has a story based on denials with none of the detail and The Times has not yet covered the story online.
Trump has a record for being litigious.
The Daily Mail was hit last year with a $150m lawsuit from Melania Trump after reporting allegations about the racy past of the president-elect’s wife.
Trump himself said on Twitter: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
He added: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?”