Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson and his wife Barbara Hamel set out to create a fact-checking website that would become the standard for reliable and fact-based reporting, but as time went on it turned out to be another propaganda arm for the left. Now, Mikkelson has not only been found to be incredibly biased but a plagiarist as well.
According to the New York Post, Mikkelson has been ejected from the company he founded after it was discovered that he had ripped off phrases and paragraphs from outlets like the New York Times, CNN, LA Times, and more under the “Snopes Staff” byline or under his pseudonym Jeff Zarronandia:
David Mikkelson, who launched Snopes in 1995 with a mission to be “the internet’s definitive fact-checking site,” was suspended by his company, Doreen Marchionni, Snopes’ VP of editorial and its managing editor, confirmed to BuzzFeed, after their reporters uncovered no less than 54 plagiarized articles by Mikkelson.
“Let us be clear: Plagiarism undermines our mission and values, full stop,” Marchionni said in a statement on Friday. “It has no place in any context within this organization.”
The Post reported that Snopes has retracted 60 articles with 140 flagged for review, and will continue making these retractions as the investigation continues.
Mikkelson responded to the investigation by saying “there is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgment,” and apologizing.
Mikkelson reportedly said that his plagiarism is a result of not coming from a journalism background and “wasn’t used to doing news aggregation.” He said his Zarronandia byline was a “stress-relief thing” during the 2016 election when “fact-checking” became more and more popular. The reactions to his political opponents being “fact-checked” apparently made him happy.
“Let’s have some fun and watch these people vent their spleen inventing reasons why this nonexistent persona is biased,” he said.
Buzzfeed, who originally reported on the matter, interviewed coworkers and found that Mikkelson encouraged plagiarism to happen amongst the staff in an effort to be one of the first sites up with breaking news, and tell his writers to edit the pieces after they published:
“He would instruct [writers] to copy text from other sites, post them verbatim so that it looked like we were fast and could scoop up traffic, and then change the story in real time,” Snopes’ former managing editor Brooke Binkowski told BuzzFeed. “I hated it and wouldn’t tell any of the staff to do it, but he did it all the time.”
The only reason this investigation is happening is that his now ex-wife Hamel sold her share of the company to Proper Media, which then sued Mikkelson for mismanaging the finances of the site.
This is just one more example of why these so-called “fact-checking” websites shouldn’t be trusted to be the arbiters of fact and fiction. Not only are they subject to the same mistakes as everyone else, as I’ve written previously, but many of them are also so heavily biased that they intentionally use their reputation as “fact-finders” as a way to fool people into believing half-truths or flat out lies through sleight of hand.