BuzzFeed‘s senior political reporter McKay Coppins has admitted that the “only” kind of journalism he knows is a sort of quid pro quo methodology in which the journalist gets sources to divulge information by feeding them and getting them tanked.
“You take em out for drinks or for dinner, and then they kind of owe you — or they feel like they owe you…yeah, that’s the only method of, like, political journalism I know,” Coppins recently told the Longform Podcast, which is sponsored by The Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.
But Coppins, who is Mormon, doesn’t drink alcohol. “I just buy drinks for people and I drink Diet Coke,” he said.
The topic is reminiscent to James O’Keefe‘s 2011 “To Catch a Journalist” investigation of HuffPost‘s Sam Stein which asserted that one of Stein’s old journalism professors said Stein “boozes up” his sources to get information. Stein denied this at the time, but now hosts a roundtable discussion in which he and most of his guests drink their way through the discussion.
Stein joked about O’Keefe’s charges at the time, writing on Twitter, “James O’Keefe just called to ask if I get my sources drunk in order to get their scoops… I’m usually drunk. not my sources though.”
Coppins said covering a presidential race can be incredibly depressing, citing his children, ages 1 and 3.
“The depressing thing about being a political journalist is you really plan your life around these presidential campaigns and at your darkest points you realize how sad and pathetic that is,” he said.
He talked about what led him to interviewing Donald Trump in 2014.
It was the inspiration of one man: Sam Nunberg, the twice-fired Trump aide who was fired the first time for the story Coppins wrote about his then-boss.
“I had like started to get to know him just as like one of a cast of like weird Republican sources that I was cultivating. And I knew he like knew stuff, and he was plugged into other areas that seemed more relevant at the time.”
Speaking of drinking, Coppins says Nunberg is now “living with his parents and trying to get sober.”
To Coppins, Nunberg is “left in the wreckage of Donald Trump” and says that in some ‘weird and perverse way” the ex-Trump aide still worships Trump.
Listen to the full interview here.