A quick note here, since everyone is still talking about the BuzzFeed report on Donald Trump allegedly telling Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
One of the authors, Jason Leopold, has quite the history when it comes to bad reporting. Most folks know of his claim that multiple sources told him Karl Rove was going to be indicted in 2006 and how it turned out to be utterly false.
But, as Columbia Journalism Review noted back then, it wasn’t his first problem with facts.
When Leopold’s story was first called into question a few weeks ago, Salon’s Tim Grieve reminded readers of Leopold’s checkered history with the publication. Salon removed Leopold’s August 29, 2002 story about Enron from its site after it was discovered that he plagiarized parts from the Financial Times and was unable to provide a copy of an email that was critical to the piece. Leopold’s response? A hysterical rant (linked above) which claimed that Salon’s version of events was “nothing but lies,” and that “At this point, I wonder why Salon would go to great lengths to further twist the knife into my back. I suppose the New York Times will now release their version of the events. I can see the headline now ‘Jason Leopold Must Die.’”
That is pretty big. But, like always in cases like this, there is more.
Fast forward to March 2005, when Leopold’s memoir, Off the Record, was set to be released. In the book, according to Howard Kurtz, Leopold says that he details his own “lying, cheating and backstabbing,” and comes clean about how he got fired from the Los Angeles Times and quit Dow Jones just before they fired him because, as he said, it “Seems I got all of the facts wrong” on a story about Enron.
Hmm. That seems like the beginnings of a pattern.
But the book was not to be. Rowman & Littlefield, the book’s publisher, cancelled production just before it went to press after one of the book’s sources threatened to sue. That source, Steven Maviglio, who was a spokesman for California Governor Gray Davis, said that Leopold “just got it completely wrong” when recounting how he allegedly told Leopold that he “might have broken the law by investing in energy companies using inside information.”
Like the Salon scandal, Leopold said his publisher was basically out to get him, and that the information cited to be problematic wasn’t even in his book, that they took it from the book proposal and not the finished manuscript.
In these two instances, as the CJR piece points out, Leopold acted as though everyone else was at fault and that he was just a victim in all this. It’s like Leopold is just a less successful Stephen Glass (in terms of getting away with making things up).
Where the present story gets interesting is in the media coverage this morning.
Leopold’s co-author, Anthony Cormier, told CNN this morning they hadn’t seen the documents themselves but were told the info from sources who had been with the investigation into Russian involvement investigation from “before Mueller.”
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) January 18, 2019
But that’s not what Leopold told MSNBC today.
“We have seen documents. We have been briefed on documents. We are very confident in our reporting," BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold, who co-wrote bombshell new report, says. pic.twitter.com/5RXOx8rvo0
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 18, 2019
So… which is it?
If the BuzzFeed piece (which BuzzFeed is standing by) turns out to be anything short of 100 percent accurate, it will be another mark against Leopold… and, at that point, we would have to wonder why in God’s name BuzzFeed would have hired him in the first place.
Again, no way to really know for certain right now, but things weren’t quite adding up from the start, and at this point, I’m quite skeptical.