Buzzfeed and its editor Ben Smith are being sued for publishing a controversial and unsubstantiated dossier which documented damaging intelligence on President Trump allegedly collected by the Russian government. Buzzfeed published the report after CNN broke the news that Trump had been notified by intelligence agencies that they suspected such information existed and could be used against him.
The lawsuit was filed not by Trump, but by XBT Holdings, a “Russian-tied tech firm” that was named in the dossier and that says they were falsely maligned by the spy who wrote the document, whom they’re also suing. They charged that the dossier contained “libelous, unverified and untrue allegations” about their company and the owner, Aleksej Gubarev.
We were shocked to see our good name wrongly included and published in this unsubstantiated report. We are confident that the courts will review the evidence of our non-involvement and provide fair and reasonable compensation from the perpetrators of this outrageous allegation.
Buzzfeed has already taken action to limit their exposure in the wake of the lawsuit announcement:
In a statement to McClatchy, BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said Friday night, “We have redacted Mr. Gubarev’s name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it.”
The dossier charged that Trump had helped the Russians hack into Democratic party computer with the help of XBT and Gubarev, among other outrageous claims.
The Florida lawsuit says that neither defendant – BuzzFeed or Ben Smith – had contacted the plaintiffs to determine whether the allegations had “any basis in fact.” Nor have they since, it alleges.
Moreover, the suit claims that even as BuzzFeed and Smith published the information, which they acknowledged at the time contained unverified information, “they knew, without a doubt, that at least certain portions of the dossier were untrue.”
The dossier became the flashpoint in a rhetorical war between the newly inaugurated president, the cable news network CNN, and Buzzfeed. Trump and his allies attempted to tie the dossier to the reporting by CNN, even though most media critics excoriated Buzzfeed for their bad journalistic practices in publishing the dossier, while praising the much less sensationalistic reporting by CNN.
Trump and his allies have since bashed CNN for what they perceive as left-wing partisan bias. Meanwhile, several U.S. intelligence agencies are still investigating whether the Russian government secretly aided Trump’s electoral victory.