MSNBC’s Chuck Todd was furious about BuzzFeed’s editorial decision to publish the documents that President-elect Donald Trump and sitting President Barack Obama received as part of their briefing.
In publishing the documents, BuzzFeed was quick to qualify that they could not verify the validity of the sources of the claims. While the site certainly covered its legal bases, the PR campaign against BuzzFeed has already begun and Todd is a proud participant. Editor Ben Smith explained that if those in the highest levels of government are seeing the documents and Americans should as well.
“You talk about context and you talk about putting responsibility on the readers,” Todd began. “But at the same time, don’t you have the responsibility of not spreading false information? Are you knowingly spreading false information?”
Todd went on to clarify that he knows Smith to be an honorable man and understands the intent, but “you just published fake news.”
Smith said that he has a responsibility to his readers to not serve as a PR hack for elected officials. He anticipated that some in the media wouldn’t agree with BuzzFeed’s decision to post the document, but transparency was more important.
“You have to have a really strong argument to suppress a document — suppress information,” Smith said.
Todd wondered what should come first: “Truth or Transparency?”
Smith said that it is a luxury to choose but Todd refused to relent.
Smith explained that like many media outlets, BuzzFeed sat on these documents out of caution but when the story broke and people were discussing “this secret document with dark mysterious claims” they felt obligated to make the document live.
“This is the moment when responsible news organizations ought to say to their audience, ‘We can’t tell you to trust this, but this is what your betters are talking about and refusing to show you and we feel that we should share that with you,'” Smith said.
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— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 11, 2017