One year after BuzzFeed published former MI6 operative Christopher Steele’s private intelligence dossier alleging Donald Trump’s ties to Russia (sometimes known in certain circles as the “pee dossier”), the website’s editor in chief Ben Smith is defending the decision.
In a New York Times op-ed posted Tuesday night just as word broke that Trump attorney Michael Cohen had filed a defamation suit against BuzzFeed over the story, Smith declared that he was “proud we published the Trump-Russia dossier.”
“A year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear that the dossier is unquestionably real news,” said Smith. “We strongly believed that publishing the disputed document whose existence we and others were reporting was in the public interest.”
In his op-ed, Smith asserted that the dossier provided critical context for the American public to understand the actions of the various political players in the metastasizing investigation of Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. Smith also dismissed media “traditionalists” who accused him of publishing “fake news.”
“We never bought the notion, made by the traditionalists, that a main threat to journalism is that journalists might be too transparent with their audience. Keeping the reporting process wrapped in mystery only helps those who oppose the free press,” said Smith.
Controversy, however, continues to simmer, most recently Trump lawyer and confidante Michael Cohen filed suit against the website for defamation over the issue.
The dossier was prepared by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele for the strategic intelligence firm Fusion GPS. Its most explosive claims — that the Russian government has a trove of compromising material on Trump, including video a pee filled dalliance with several Russia prostitutes in 2013 — remain unverified.