As journalists, talking heads, and politicians try to make heads or tails of a report from BuzzFeed News last week, one of the authors of the report has quickly come under scrutiny for a history of making false charges.
On Thursday, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier published a report that President Donald Trump directed his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen to commit perjury by lying to Congress about a proposed Moscow-Trump Tower project.
The next day, special counsel Robert Muller’s office disputed the claim in a statement saying, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”
BuzzFeed News, however, is standing by its report and on Saturday posted on Twitter saying, “As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect of our story is inaccurate.”
“We remained confident,” the statement said, “in what we’ve reported, and will share more as we are able.”
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 19, 2019
While Leopold and Cormier have written extensively on Trump and Russia, CNN notes that Leopold’s past work as a reporter are starting to resurface, casting a shadow of doubt on his recent report.
One such story goes all the way back to 2002 where the news website Salon was forced to remove a story that Leopold had written while he was a freelancer about the troubled energy giant Enron.
In a statement, Salon said that the story was “riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations” as well as potential plagiarism. The news company went on to say that “we concluded that we were never going to get the supporting evidence Leopold kept promising, and decided to remove the story.”
The New Zealand website Scoop has Salon’s devastating description of Leopold’s actions surrounding the story — and Leopold’s response.
In another incident that took place in 2006, documented by Columbia Journalism Review, Leopold alleged in an article for the nonprofit news site Truthout.org that White House aide Karl Rove had told then-President George W. Bush that he was about to be indicted over the Valerie Plame leak case. (The article is no longer on the Truthout site.)
Leopold reported that this was “according to people knowledgeable about these discussions.”
Additionally, Leopold claimed that he had multiple sources who concluded that “Rove’s indictment is imminent.”
No such indictment ever took place.
Despite some serious professional missteps, Leopold has achieved some measure of fame.
In 2015, The New York Times published a generalliy glowing 2015 profile of the then-45-year-old reporter under the headline “”A Wizard at Prying Government Secrets From the Government.” The profile didn’t mention the Salon or Truthout stories specifially, though it did acknowledge Leopold had “been through a series of scandals.”
He told The Times, “So maybe there’s this drug-ish thing in me that still exists, maybe that was always part of my personality. I love the score. I love the score! Particularly when it is from the government!”
In 2018, Leopold became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a story that showed that “operatives with apparent ties to Vladimir Putin have engaged in a targeted killing campaign against his perceived enemies on British and American soil.”
In a statement to CNN, BuzzFeed News spokesman Matt Mittenthal backed Leopold’s report on Friday saying, “Jason is one of the best journalists in the world, and he has proven it, with reporting that’s been months ahead of developments in the Mueller investigation.”
“His and Anthony’s work has been proven to be true at every turn — and it’s interesting that these personal attacks are surfacing only now, as the facts become more dangerous for the individuals involved. BuzzFeed News stands by this story 100%,” he added.
The Western Journal has reached out to Leopold for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
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