It’s gotta sting.
All day long, CNN has been leading with BuzzFeed‘s bombshell story that President Trump directed his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Trump tower project in Moscow.
But all day long, correspondents have been prefacing the alleged news with two words that are getting under BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith‘s skin:
“If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true. If true.”
“A huge if,” Wolf Blitzer stressed during the 5 o’clock hour.
During an interview with Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Wolf pointedly asked, “Can you confirm the BuzzFeed report?” The congressman replied, “No, I can’t confirm the BuzzFeed report.”
“We are a long way from establishing if this is true with all respect to BuzzFeed,” added CNN’s Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
“Let’s not forget that no organization has been able to confirm this BuzzFeed report,” Wolf said after Toobin finished his preface.
Sting. Sting. Sting.
Smith publicly disemboweled CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy for his tweet and story on the matter. Darcy covered the dubious past of Jason Leopold, one of two authors of the BuzzFeed piece.
—@JasonLeopold and @a_cormier_ have scored a number of scoops for BuzzFeed on the Trump Tower Moscow project. But the intense attention has also resurfaced Leopold’s checkered past. My story: https://t.co/yuIXpkM2Vg
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) January 18, 2019
Smith shot back at Darcy, saying, “‘Resurfaced’ is really the laziest word in journalism. This is an … adequate clip job, but CNN should change the headline and go do some reporting.”
But never fear. The Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel, a longtime buddy of Smith’s, is here and ready to help.
“The @longformpodcast interview w @JasonLeopold was fantastic,” Weigel tweeted. “He made a mistake more than a decade ago and totally rethought how he did reporting. It’s inspiring, not a “questions raised” story. …He changed his method. He went from being a ‘source tells me’ reporter to a FOIA/documents reporter.”
BuzzFeed PR issued a scathing response to CNN and anyone else doubting the veracity of site’s reporting. As an aside, BuzzFeed and The Daily Caller have never been tight. (RELATED: Daily Caller Editor Fires Back At BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith Over Leaked Email: ‘Misinformed Pile Of Whiny Dogsh*it)
— BuzzFeed PR (@BuzzFeedPR) January 18, 2019
Weigel knows a little something about making mistakes, being publicly scorned and eventually being blessed with forgiveness.
Back in 2010, Weigel was part of then-WaPo reporter Ezra Klein‘s invitation-only liberal JournoList listserv. Weigel made nasty comments about well-known conservatives such as Matt Drudge, Newt Gingrich, and Rush Limbaugh. It was supposed to stay among friends.
But word leaked out. WaPo accepted Weigel’s resignation. And he promptly went to work for then-WaPo-owned Slate. He made a 9-month pitstop at Bloomberg Politics. By 2015, he was back in WaPo‘s cushy fold.
Trump’s White House adamantly denies that the BuzzFeed report is true. Trump’s verbally clunky lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted as much. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters it was “absolutely ridiculous.” So far, Trump has not reacted to the so-called news.
So until another outlet corroborates the news, there will continue to be a dark cloud and a mantra attached to all the re-reporting of Trump allegedly ordering Cohen to lie to Congress.
That is, if true.