Buzzfeed has admitted it got a second article wrong after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Similar to the first article it got wrong, neither editor-in-chief Ben Smith nor the reporters on the story apologized for publishing false information.
The openly anti-President Donald Trump website published an article touted as hurtful to Trump on Jan. 17, claiming that Trump “directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow tower project.”
Reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier cited two anonymous sources for the article and stood by the claim even when Mueller’s office took the unusual step of saying information in the article was wrong.
Buzzfeed was forced to append a lengthy editor’s note to another article, published on June 6, 2018.
Also written by Cormier and Leopold, with a third byline from Emma Loop, the article claimed that Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president, “was in contact with a Russian who offered a Trump-Putin meeting.”
Like a number of stories that sought to present collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, the story relied on anonymous sources who were not named or even described in any detail past saying they had “knowledge of the matter.”
The story claimed that Ivanka Trump was in contact with a man named Dmitry Klokov, a former Olympic weightlifter.
“The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the U.S.’s adversaries—in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions,” the three reporters claimed.
The leftist media organization was forced to admit that the Mueller report demolished the story’s main thrust after the report was released with light redactions on April 18.
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report from his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election revealed new information about this article. The report said that the Russian who told Michael Cohen he could put Donald Trump in touch with Vladimir Putin during negotiations over Trump Tower Moscow was not the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov, as Cohen believed him to be throughout their communications, but a former government official with the same name,” the editor’s note stated.
“Photos of the weightlifter Dmitry Klokov have been removed from this story, and references to the weightlifter have been removed from the subhead, but the main text of the story has not been edited since its initial publication.”
It wasn’t clear why Buzzfeed issued neither a retraction nor an apology to Klokov or Trump.
In the article, Buzzfeed said it had spoken to the weightlifter, who told the outlet that he didn’t send any emails to Cohen. “I don’t understand why you ask me about this,” he wrote in a text. “I’m weightlifter, not a political.”
“When told that he had sent at least two emails to Cohen and had had a phone conversation with him at Ivanka Trump’s request, Klokov stopped responding,” the reporters wrote in a line that, according to the Mueller report, was fake news.
Mueller’s team wrote in the report that Ivanka Trump received an email from Lana Erchova who said she was emailing on behalf of her husband at the time, Dmitry Klokov, to offer Klokov’s assistance for the Trump campaign. Klokov at the time was a director for PJSC Federal Grid Company of Unified Energy System, a large Russian electricity transmission company.
Trump forwarded the email to Cohen and he searched for Klokov online, concluding incorrectly that Klokov was a former Olympic weightlifter.
Cohen spoke to Klokov the official at least once on the phone and several times over email; the Russian claimed he was a “trusted person” who could connect Cohen to an unidentified intermediary who could facilitate a meeting with a person Erchova later claimed was Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cohen was interested but said any meetings would need to be part of an official visit with the Trump organization getting a formal invitation preceding any trip.
The connection didn’t amount to anything and Cohen said he didn’t pursue the proposed meeting or tell anyone in the Trump Organization or the campaign of the offer.
Mueller noted in a footnote that during his interviews with the special counsel’s team, “Cohen still appeared to believe that the Klokov he spoke with was that Olympian. The investigation, however, established that the email address used to communicate with Cohen belongs to a different Dmitry Klokov.”