Well, this seems like it might be a significant problem for Buzzfeed’s credibility, despite the fact that Buzzfeed is reporting the error. “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 (@BuzzFeedNews) January 19, 2019
As a quick refresher, here’s what the Buzzfeed story claimed [emphasis added]:
Two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.
I don’t see a lot of wiggle room in that statement for those still hoping Buzzfeed’s report was going to be the beginning of the end for President Trump. The Special Counsel has undercut not just the claim about Cohen’s testimony but the claim about other documents and testimony as well. There doesn’t seem to be anything left to prop this up.
This allegation published by Buzzfeed was so significant that throughout the day people have been saying if it were confirmed it would definitely result in Trump’s impeachment. Others were reacting with outrage at the suggestion that maybe Buzzfeed didn’t have it right, but as the day wore on, no one seemed able to confirm it. As Allahpundit noted a couple hours ago, that silence from top papers began to seem very strange. But now that’s it’s been disputed, Ronan Farrow says other sources he spoke with disputed the claim about Trump ordering Cohen to lie.
I can’t speak to Buzzfeed’s sourcing, but, for what it’s worth, I declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind.
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) January 19, 2019
Buzzfeed really hung its credibility on this one and it looks like they got it badly wrong. It’s not hard to imagine what Trump is going to do with this on Twitter. And, like it or not, he’ll have a point. As many others have noted, the problem with these media mistakes is that they always happen in one direction. I’ll end with this tweet from Buzzfeed News’ Director of Communications from earlier in the day when they were riding high.
it's true because our reporters have independently confirmed the facts and trust their sources, and our lawyers and editors agree. that's how reporting works.
— Matt Mittenthal (@mattmittenthal) January 18, 2019