Emails Reveal CNN Journalist Tore Into BuzzFeed Editor For Irresponsibly Publishing Unverified Steele Dossier, “Damaged Its Impact”
NEW YORK – After BuzzFeed published the infamous Steele dossier, CNN anchor Jake Tapper lit into BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith for the decision, calling it “irresponsible” and “uncollegial,” according to emails released Friday.
“I think your move makes the story less serious and credible[.] I think you damaged its impact,” Tapper wrote to Smith on Jan. 10, 2017, just after BuzzFeed published the dossierin full on its website.
The emails were released in response to a federal judge’s order to unseal documents from a lawsuit against BuzzFeed, which was sued in February 2017 by a Russian businessman who was accused in the dossier of being a Russian agent.
Lawyers for the Russian, Aleksej Gubarev, picked out the Tapper-Smith exchange in hopes of showing BuzzFeed failed to do its due diligence before publishing the dossier, which was funded by Democrats and compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
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BuzzFeed noted in its initial report that the dossier remained unverified. Smith defended the decision to publish the document on the grounds that numerous policymakers, government officials and journalists were aware of its salacious rumors, which included that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.
Tapper was seemingly upset with Smith because shortly before BuzzFeed published the dossier, CNN had reported parts of the document had been briefed to then-President-elect Donald Trump in a meeting with top intelligence community officials Jan. 6, 2017.
CNN did not publish the dossier, but BuzzFeed used CNN’s story as a hook to publish Steele’s 35-page report.
“That was pretty uncollegial[.] Not to mention irresponsible[.] No one has verified this stuff,” Tapper wrote to Smith.
Smith defended his decision, telling Tapper that publishing the dossier “was not an easy call.”
“Collegiality wise it was you stepping on my dick,” Tapper responded.
“You could have waited til morning,” he said.
“Professionally this is unverified info[.] Your guys unlike us don’t even seem to know who the former agent i[s],” added Tapper, seemingly referring to Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier.
Smith rebutted Tapper’s claim, saying “of course” he knew who wrote the dossier.
Smith mentioned part of his exchange with Tapper in an essay at BuzzFeed, though he did not quote all of the CNN host’s colorful language. Smith noted Tapper has developed a reputation for contacting fellow journalists to air various grievances.