For BuzzFeed to publish totally unsubstantiated allegations against Donald Trump — while saying “there is serious reason to doubt the allegations” — turns the practice of journalism on its head.It is a perversion of what we do for a living to spew out material that may be nothing more than bogus rumors and disinformation, and to claim, as BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith does, that this is “how we see the role of reporters in 2017.”The president-elect and his team decided yesterday to tackle this head on, to take the fight to both BuzzFeed and CNN, to make the media the issue rather than defensively deflecting the questions. And they had a big fat target.BuzzFeed, a pop culture site with an overlay of news, is not exactly friendly to Trump. In fact, Smith told his staff in a 2015 memo that it’s “entirely fair to call him a mendacious racist, as the politics team and others have reported clearly and aggressively: he’s out there saying things that are false, and running an overtly anti-Muslim campaign.” This, said Smith, was fact, not opinion.Trump called BuzzFeed “a failing piece of garbage” that is going to “suffer the “consequences” of its actions. Sean Spicer called it “frankly outrageous” and a “highly irresponsible” decision by a “left-wing” blog. Mike Pence blamed it on “media bias.” The decision to have the incoming vice president and press secretary denounce the website before Trump spoke — with Reince Priebus doing the same on the morning shows — underscores how they viewed this as a prime opportunity to discredit the press.Smith told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd last night, “When you have an object that’s in play… you do have to ask the question, why should I suppress that?”But Todd shot back: “You’ve just published fake news.”
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