The editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, Ben Smith, appeared Wednesday on MSNBC to defend his site publishing an unverified dossier on President-elect Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.
During the interview on “Meet The Press Daily,” host Chuck Todd repeatedly hammered Smith on his decision to publish the report, which said Russia had compromising personal and financial information on Trump.
The president-elect said earlier on Wednesday that the BuzzFeed story was false and “fake news.”
The interview began with Smith explaining his decision to post the dossier, which he described as twofold. First, the documents were being widely circulated among intelligence officials, elected officials, and media organizations to the point that readers should see them. Second, Smith said, the report had entered public conversations as a “secret document floating around, full of dark allegations that we will not repeat to you,” making it worth showing readers “in an appropriate context.”
Todd repeatedly criticized Smith for his decision throughout the interview.
“Didn’t you just–and I know this was not your intent, I’ve known you a long time–but you just published fake news,” Todd said.
Smith responded by continuing to defend his decision, before Todd again called him out for publishing unverified information.
“Transparency can turn into a crutch to turn into laziness. I mean, the job of the reporters is: we’re doing our best to find truth. OK, at the end of the day, it’s the best truth we can have,” Todd said. “You made a knowing decision to put out an untruth, or at least something you hadn’t proven true yet.”
While both men continued to go back and forth, Smith argued that the media can no longer function in the classic style of reporting the verified truth.
“I think that we are now in a media environment where you have to engage in false statements,” Smith said. “I mean, I guess I think its an environment where you no longer have the luxury.”