After special counsel Robert Mueller made the unprecedented decision to publicly dispute reporting related to the Trump-Russia investigation, BuzzFeed announced it was standing by its story, which Mueller characterized as "not accurate."
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said:
In response to the statement tonight from the Special Counsel's spokesman: We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he's disputing.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 19, 2019
Although it's very unlikely Mueller's office will expand upon its statement and clarify what facts are in dispute — whether it is a few allegations or the entire story — other reputable news sources revealed Friday that the story BuzzFeed published was also on their radar, but chose not to move forward due to a lack of corroboration.
What are the details?
In a report detailing Mueller's BuzzFeed rebuttal, the New York Times completely knocked the foundation from under BuzzFeed's story.
"The New York Times has not independently confirmed the BuzzFeed report. One person familiar with Mr. Cohen's testimony to the special counsel's prosecutors said that Mr. Cohen did not state that the president had pressured him to lie to Congress," the Times reported.
Meanwhile, Ronan Farrow, who is known for breaking major national stories, revealed he also investigated the story, but chose not to publish due to sources directly disputing what BuzzFeed alleged.
I can't speak to Buzzfeed's sourcing, but, for what it's worth, I declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind.
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) January 19, 2019
So while BuzzFeed and others in the media — like MSNBC's Chris Matthews — contend that BuzzFeed's story remains partially credible due to Mueller's vague phrasing, Farrow and the Times make it clear the central fact in BuzzFeed's story — that Michael Cohen alleged in testimony that President Donald Trump urged him to lie to Congress — is highly questionable at best, but downright false at worst.
The Washington Post later reported: "Mueller's denial, according to people familiar with the matter, aims to make clear that none of those statements in the story are accurate."