Salon's conservative writer Carrie Sheffield has joined the chorus of outraged leftist and professional contrarians to denounce Buzzfeed's Russian dossier story, calling it "reckless" and a "disservice to the country". She writes:
Publishing these unsubstantiated allegations in a mainstream outlet like BuzzFeed amounts to a serious violation of journalistic ethics; they are the epitome of “fake news.” If the tables were turned and BuzzFeed or even a conservative outlet like Fox News had published serious allegations of sexual impropriety against Hillary Clinton, the mainstream press would be apoplectic.
BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith has done a disservice to the country by publishing a report so utterly devoid of verifiable facts or sources. Smith tried to cover BuzzFeed’s tail with the disclaimer that the salacious allegations about Trump “are unverified, and the report contains errors” and that “BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”
Where to even begin with this nonsense. Firstly, the dossier leak was not primarily about Trump's "sexual impropriety". It was about potentially compromising intel the Russians have on Trump that could adversely effect the country. Had there been similar intel on any sexual impropriety on Hillary Clinton's behalf that could have compromised her actions in office, then it most certainly would have been newsworthy. Coupled with the fact that Trump already has extremely suspicious ties to Russia, won't release his tax returns proving he has none, and has lied about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, the case for publishing the dossier was incredibly strong. Sheffield called the story "the epitome of fake news", neglecting to point out what exactly was fake about it. Buzzfeed published a dossier that has, as Smith described, been "circulated at the highest levels of the US government," and added several disclaimers pointing out that it had not been verified. As Albert Burneko at Deadspin wrote earlier this week, this attitude taken by a fairly large portion of the otherwise sane media is perplexing to say the least.
"If a reporter’s job is not “learn what powerful people are talking about in secret, and then share it with everybody else,” then I sincerely do not know what the fuck it is, or why we are supposed to believe it has any value whatsoever," he wrote.
"Here is a document that “elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists” have been circulating among themselves in secret “for weeks” is not merely a permissible news story," he continued. "It needs no radical extremist reporting catechism to smile upon it. Publishing that document, if you have gotten your hands on it, is the most basic and essential act of reporting."
Amazingly, Sheffield then compared the publishing of the dossier to Trump's birther claims about Obama:
This excuse rings strikingly similar to Trump trolling President Obama: “We don’t know if he’s actually born here, just show us the certificate so that the American people can decide … We’re not saying he wasn’t born here, we’re just saying let the people decide if these birther allegations are true.” Sadly, it worked for Trump and it worked for Smith; BuzzFeed got its desired clicks and eyeballs.
What. The. Fuck. Trump provided no evidence from any source whatsoever when relaying the birther garbage, relying on racist, fake right wing hack sites that were attempting to smear the president due to his foreign sounding name. The Russian dossier on the other hand comes from a respected former British intelligence officer and was deemed so explosive and so important that president Obama and president-elect Trump were both personally briefed on it.
As more facts emerge, the Buzzfeed story is becoming more legitimate by the day, and those desperate to disprove it are looking all the less so.