Three Russian bankers lodged a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed this week over its publication of an explosive and unverified dossier on President Donald Trump compiled by former intelligence agents and his political enemies.
Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan, three billionaire bankers named in the dossier, claim that their personal and professional reputations have been adversely affected by BuzzFeed’s Jan. 10 article, the first medium by which the salacious document reached the public. All three have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The dossier names all three men in a scheme to manipulate Putin and the 2016 presidential election for personal and financial gain. The businessmen claim that all of the offenses in which they are implicated in the document are false.
“Even though the dossier included many harmful allegations about plaintiffs … and even though BuzzFeed expressly acknowledged the unverified and potentially unverifiable nature of the dossier’s allegations, BuzzFeed published the unredacted dossier and the article anyway,” their complaint reads. The complaint also alleges that BuzzFeed did not contact the three plaintiffs in advance of publication to allow them the opportunity to respond.
In an article attending the dossier’s publication, BuzzFeed reported that they could not confirm the veracity of the dossier’s contents, and that confirming several of the document’s allegations could be impossible. One such claim, alleging that a video exists of the president urinating on Russian hookers, generated lewd headlines but is impossible to corroborate.
The bankers are represented by Alan Lewis and John Walsh of Carter Ledyard & Milburn. They hope to recover damages to compensate for the harm allegedly inflicted on their reputations.
BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal dismissed the suit as frivolous.
“Given that the allegations contained in the dossier were presented to successive presidents and remain under active investigation by intelligence agencies and Congress, there is little doubt that their publication was and continues to be in the public interest,” Mittenthal said in a statement. “That makes it all the more important that this shameless attempt to bully and intimidate BuzzFeed News not have a chilling effect on other journalists who continue to report this important story.”
Aleksej Gubarev, another Russian businessman named in the story, has brought his own suit against BuzzFeed.
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